August 13, 2017

The tree, building, Okazaki fragments and the laureates

Every morning, as I cycle towards my school, I stop by an apple tree in-front of graduate school of science and rejoice that I have the rare opportunity of sighting it every day. Likewise, passing daily by this apple tree has afforded a tremendous feeling that of Newtonian era, during which the mystery of gravitational forces began to unravel. The tree is a descendant of Newton’s apple tree.

Descendant of Newton's apple tree
The story of gravitational physics originated from the predecessors of this very tree when a piece of apple struck Newton’s head eons ago. Later, it went on to become one of the most important breakthroughs and forefront of the scientific world.

History has it that the tree was sent to Japan long time back and nursed somewhere. To commemorate the remarkable achievement of Professor Maskawa and Kobayashi, 2008 Nobel laureates in physics, it was planted at Nagoya University by those who sparked off the light of particle physics. Much to my disbelief, both the Nobel Prize recipients were the then students of Nagoya University.

Noyori Materials Science building. Courtesy; google.
Just as I park my cycle and walk through the basement of a classy glassy ‘Noyori Materials Science building, I freeze for yet another couple of minutes and marvel at the massive triumph. This time, it’s the Professor Ryōji Noyori, Nobel laureate in chemistry 2001, for his study of chirally catalyzed hydrogenations.

I was told the building was erected with a grant conferred by Japan government for attaining the most coveted scientific award and propagating the Japanese fame worldwide. Like one of the professors shared in his lectures, there is also a personal laboratory and a residence contained in the building. Above all, it’s a testament of grit and trust in one’s struggle.

This sexy, towering and glossy structure since then has become a symbol of motivation.

And in times of mental exhaustion, frustrations and other dire straits, a glimpse at it helps me rejuvenate and drives my endeavor ever stronger.

Molecular Biologist, Dr. Tsuneko Okazaki. Courtesy: google.
I don’t remember when I first became aware of Okazaki fragments. But, it was during those days in college that I started considering about it seriously. In nutshell, these are temporary DNA fragments synthesized in the process of DNA replication, a concerted brainchild of Dr. Reiji Okazaki and Dr. Tsuneko Okazaki.

Lately as I was poring over my university website, I chanced upon a special interview that featured the renowned Japanese molecular biologist, Dr. Tsuneko Okazaki. You can read the full story here. Alas! The global sensation in molecular biology is also a professor at Nagoya University.

I had never conceived the thought that one day I will come this close to someone like the pioneer of Okazaki fragments. Not even in my dreams. Perhaps, fate might have hand in it. Now it’s my wish, at least for once, to see the champion before I graduate from here. I am optimistic that genie will grant my aspiration. 

Nobel prize exhibition hall, Nagoya university.
In total, Nagoya University has churned out six or seven noble laureates so far in the field of science.

For the greatest benefit to mankind Japan has been instrumental in producing some of the finest minds.