Interview with Richard R. Schrock

“I hope that I can be a spokesman for the future”

Transcript of the telephone interview with Professor Richard R. Schrock after the announcement of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on 5 October 2005. Interviewer was Joanna Rose, science writer.

– Hello.

– Hello. My name is Joanna Rose and I’m calling from …

– Okay.

– … which is the official site of the Nobel Foundation.

– Okay.

– And we are making a recording now for our website.

– Okay, thank you.

– My congratulations on the Prize, to begin with.

– Thank you very much.

– How does it feel?

– Er … It feels wonderful! It feels wonderful, really the culmination of an entire life’s work, for me.

– I see. How did you receive the message?

– I received the message at 5.30 in the morning from the Nobel Committee and other representatives, and I had gotten up at 5 a.m. – I tend to get up early – and was having some coffee when the call arrived at 5.30.

– I see. Did you expect it, the call?

– I think “expected” is not the right word, because …

– Did you hope for it?

– You never expect these things. You know, I could have, maybe, gone on for ever without receiving a Nobel Prize, but there are rumours and so, if the phone rings at 5.30 in the morning, that’s pretty unusual. So … It crossed my mind, yes.

– Did you think about the Nobel Prize the previous years?

– Sometimes, a bit, but usually not a lot, no. And I never thought that, of course, I would actually be worthy of that sort of honour. But eventually I realised that a lot of other people think that I was worthy of it. So … that’s what counts.

– Yes, great. What does the Prize mean to you?

– I … To me, it is really an opportunity to say something about science in general, in the US, about chemistry, I would say, more specifically and about, really, what we should be doing in the future in terms of funding for chemistry and what we should do as far as basic research is concerned, because what we accomplished, Bob Grubbs and I, came through basic research without really knowing exactly how we were proceeding; we ultimately came to realise, step by step, that our basic research was leading to something really useful. And that is very, very pleasing to me; and I think that’s what the Nobel Prize is all about: to do work that turns out to be useful to society in some way and certainly other fields in science. So I hope that I can be a spokesman for the future and what chemistry of the future will be.

– So, somehow, the Prize puts new responsibilities on you.

– It definitely changes one’s life, yes. And I’m still young enough that I think I have some time to take advantage of that change.

– Are you planning to pursue studies as well?

– Well, I continue – or will continue, I hope – to have an active research group of about fifteen co-workers and to write papers and certainly to do basic research; that’s my greatest love. And what we are doing now is, much of it, a continuation of what I’ve been doing for thirty years. But also other new and wonderful things are happening that I’m excited about and that I will continue to work on.

– And my last question is maybe: do you have any idea what you will do with the Prize money?

– Well, I think I’ll put it in a safe place, like a bank, for example. Ultimately, I don’t know at this point what I will do. But certainly that will be on my mind and I will be thinking about it.

– Dr Schrock, thank you so much for taking your time, and I’m looking forward to meeting you in Stockholm in December.

– I’m very much looking forward to it too. Thank you.

– Thank you. Bye-bye.

– Okay. Bye-bye.

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