Insight from a Nobel Race and a Life in Science

“At a Feb. 15 public lecture, Nobel Prize winner and former UC San Diego graduate student Venkatraman “Venki” Ramakrishnan took his audience on a deep dive into the frontiers of research and a life in science.

During the hour-long presentation at UC San Diego’s Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, Ramakrishnan highlighted the major themes inside his recently published scientific memoir, “Gene Machine, the Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome.” Like the book, Ramakrishnan’s lecture engaged his audience with the perspective of someone who has lived through peaks and pitfalls on the way to scientific eminence, tempered with insights in a human, accessible style.

At the core of his lecture, Ramakrishnan discussed the high-stakes race to uncover the structure of the ribosome, the molecular machinery that translates our genes into proteins. Known as the “mother of DNA,” ribosomes are a central component behind all life and the targets for the action of many antibiotics, yet most people know little about them.

The Nobel laureate describes to audiences the bumpy, twisting road he traveled on the road to scientific prominence. From the beginning of his story, Ramakrishnan is intent on delivering his tale from a candid and personal perspective, flipping the public perception that science is one clean, clear eureka moment after another.”


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