Paul Modrich


Nobel Minds 2015

The 2015 Nobel Laureates met at the Grünewald Hall in the Stockholm Concert Hall in Stockholm on 11 December 2015 for the traditional round-table discussion and TV program ‘Nobel Minds’. The Nobel Laureates discussed if prizes inspire unnecessary competition, if it’s possible to fight inequality; the discoveries for which they’ve been honored and how these can be applied in a practical way, and what motivates them in their work. The discussion was hosted by Zeinab Badawi of the BBC.

Interview, October 2015

“Shock. Surprise. Excitement”

Telephone interview with Paul Modrich following the announcement of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 7 October 2015. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer of Nobel Media.

Transcript of the interview

[Paul Modrich] Hello.

[Adam Smith] Hello, this is Adam Smith. So where am I calling you?

[PM] We’re in New Hampshire. We have a little cabin in the woods in New Hampshire and we’re on vacation. Our last day is actually tomorrow. So this was sort of a shock.

[AS] And there was you thinking you’d got away from it all.

[PM] We thought so.

[AS] So how did the news reach you in your cabin?

[PM] I started getting emails about 6.30 this morning and I was stunned. Difficult to believe actually.

[AS] So apart from being stunned what was your first reaction?

[PM] Shock, I guess. Surprise. Excitement. I’m not a very eloquent speaker, very …

[AS] I think you’ve said that very well. But it’s funny that you’ve escaped up there because presumably Duke University is keen to get hold of you and do a press conference, but there you are.

[PM] [Laughs] I’m in the right place at the right time.

[AS] Exactly. Yes, so in fact if you shut off your telephones you’re completely free, for a day.

[PM] Exactly.

[AS] Presumably the last free day you’ll have for many days.

[PM] I hope not. [Laughs] Actually our plans tomorrow were driving back through Boston and we plan to stop and visit the person I post-doced with actually, many, many years ago, Charles Richardson.

[AS] Well that will be a nice surprise for everybody. There’ll be Nobel celebrations as well as your visit.

[PM] Well, we’ll see. The people are the important thing.

[AS] Exactly. It’s a lovely recognition of the field of DNA repair, this Prize.

[PM] It is. And I think the field, for many years, didn’t receive the attention I think that it really deserved and it’s important, I think now, unequivocally established for controlling the production of mutation both in a positive and negative way.

[AS] Of course we’re very much looking forward to welcoming you to Stockholm in December.

[PM] When, in December?

[AS] So the awards ceremony itself is on 10th December in Stockholm in deepest darkest winter, but the Swedes know well how to deal with dark. And then there are a number of days of activities, including a lecture you’ll be asked to give leading up to that.

[PM] OK. [Laughs] Certainly.

[AS] Many, many congratulations, and it’s so nice to talk to you.

[PM] Thank you so much, a pleasure talking to you.

[AS] Thank you, bye bye.

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