Interview with the 2010 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry Richard F. Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki, 6 December 2010. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Editorial Director of Nobel Media.
Telephone interview with Akira Suzuki following the announcement of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 6 October 2010. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Nobelprize.org.
[Akira Suzuki] Hello?
[Smith] Hello! Professor Suzuki?
[Smith] Congratulations, of course, on the award.
[Suzuki] Yeah, thank you very much. Yes, thank you very much!
[Smith] It was announced yesterday, so how have the last twenty-four hours been since the announcement?
[Suzuki] Last night, it was very nice day, but a very hard day for myself because I knew the Nobel Foundation give us very big honour. But, they phone me at 6:30pm, around 6:30pm. But, they say, “You cannot tell this thing until after 6:45”.
[Smith] Yes, in the evening, yes.
[Suzuki] I’m supposed to keep it a secret. So, many of the, you know, the press people visit my home – so many – I don’t know, maybe more than twenty or twenty five. Then, our university, Hokkaido University, kindly sent me a car, taxi, to pick me up to the University. University arranged the group interview of many of the newspaper companies. So, I stay in the University almost midnight! Then I’ll be back to my home. And, I arrive 12:30. Then, I checked my e-mail, and I found I had almost more than eighty such e-mail messages, half from Japan, half from the other countries, including the United States and Europe and so on.
So, I checked it. And, finally, I finished check them at 4:30 am. Then, I want to get in the bed. But, I cannot sleep! That means last night, I don’t have no time to sleep. So, I’m really very tired and this morning from 11 o’clock, we started again such a group interview of press companies. So, we are still continuing such a, you know, serious discussion about my Nobel Prize, this time. OK, that is the real situation.
[Smith] It’s good to have an honest account of it. But, it sounds like you’re holding up well? Are you enjoying it?
[Suzuki] Yeah, yeah, of course, I am very happy to have such a great honour. But, also, fortunately, I’m still very healthy. So, I don’t have any problem at this moment. I’m really overjoyed and very happy to have such a great Prize from your Nobel Foundation.
[Smith] Good, good. So, the Prize will focus the world’s attention on organic chemistry.
[Smith] What for you is the joy of being an organic chemist?
[Suzuki] I think, you know, in organic chemistry, we have so many different kind of field of organic chemistry. But, my major interest is to find new synthetic methodologies. Our case, we used the organometalic compounds. Additionally, we need one important element, that is base. Without base the acidic coupling reaction using organoboron compounds cannot proceed nicely. So, that is very important point in our cross-coupling reaction.
[Smith] And, you worked originally on organoboron compounds with Herbert Brown at Purdue University?
[Suzuki] Yes? Of course, as you know, there … we spend two years as a postdoctoral research fellow at Professor Brown’s laboratory in the Purdue University.
[Smith] Hmm, what did …
[Suzuki] At that time, at that time, Professor Brown asked me, “Akira, why don’t you try these studies, the chemistry of hydroboration reaction?” Because, see, I was there from 1963 to 1965. That was, almost, several years after such a hydroboration reaction was discovered in Brown’s laboratory. Therefore, they ask me to continue the study of the stereochemistry of hydroboration reaction.
[Smith] Was it?
[Suzuki] I get nice results. And, ah, we finally decided hydroboration proceeds through the cis addition, from the less hindered of the c-c double bond. That is our conclusion of our study. We developed it …
[Smith] What …
[Smith] Sorry, what did he … what did he teach you about how to do chemistry? Was he a good mentor?
[Suzuki] Yeah, he give us many important suggestion. Not only in the chemistry but also in our … in my, life. For example, he said many things, but today I only say, ah, tell you one thing that he often told me, “You have to study such a study … such a study what be appears in text book.” You know, the text book?
[Smith] In text books, yes.
[Suzuki] That is, of course, it’s very difficult because not so many studies were cited in the textbook. So, Brown often tell us, our postdoc and graduate students, “You have to find your study, which appears in the text book.” I still remember, and I still often teach such a, you know, philosophy, to our many students. That is … of course, he taught us many things, but that is one of most impressive, chief realization he gave me in his laboratory.
[Smith] And, the tools you build, the synthetic tools you build allow one to create new molecules in new ways.
[Smith] Do you think that the chemist now has enough methodology to allow them to build the molecules they need, or is …
[Suzuki] Well, yes. I think, you know, of course we, organic chemists, want to makes different kinds of organic compounds. Such a compound has a, of course, as you know, C-C bonding. C-C bonding. For the synthesis, of carbon-carbon bonding … Pardon me? What is it?
I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Ah, people say our schedule is over time.
[Smith] Ah, ok.
[Suzuki] So, we have to stop. If you want to discuss such a thing, I think, you send me your phone …
[Smith] We will speak again, yes.
[Suzuki] If you need, ok?
[Smith] Ok, I wish you the best of luck with the rest of the day. I hope you find some sleep at some point. Thank you.
[Suzuki] Ok, thank you very much.
[Smith] Thank you so much. Bye, bye.
[Suzuki] Bye, bye.
Listen to the Interview
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Their work and discoveries range from the formation of black holes and genetic scissors to efforts to combat hunger and develop new auction formats.
See them all presented here.