Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Nobel experience

You know, if you’re fortunate enough to do good work, people do this terrible thing to you — they start saying, “Hey, you might get the Nobel Prize.” Then, when the first week in October rolls around, you lose a little sleep.

Last October, I didn’t sleep well the night before they announced the medicine prize. But no call came. They announce the chemistry prize two days later. Well, on that night, I heard this phone ringing in the distance but assumed it was a neighbor’s. So I woke at 10 after 6 the next morning and assumed the chemistry prize had gone to someone else. I then opened my laptop and went to Nobelprize.org to see who the schnook was who’d gotten it. And there I saw my name along — along with Osamu Shimomura’s and Roger Tsien’s. I was the schnook! I woke my wife, Tulle: “It’s happened.” She said, “What? Have we overslept taking our daughter to school?” ...

My friend Bob Horvitz, who got the medicine prize in 2002, tried to prepare me. He said, “You’ll go to a rehearsal before the ceremony and they’ll show you a video of Paul Nurse (the head of Rockefeller University) accepting his prize because they want to show you what not to do.” Apparently, you’re supposed to walk up to the king, accept your medal, shake his hand and bow to the king and to the electors. Then, you bow to the audience. Paul had done this, but when he got back to his chair, he lifted his arms à la Rocky, and went, “Yeeess!” They apparently did not approve of this.
--2008 Nobel chemistry laureate Martin Chalfie on what it's like to win a Nobel Prize

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