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.
“My wife took the call and woke me up”.
Telephone interview with Aziz Sancar 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
[Aziz Sancar] Hello.
[Adam Smith] Oh hello, Professor Sancar, this is Adam Smith from Nobelprize.org. Many congratulations on the award of the Nobel Prize.
[Aziz Sancar] Thank you.
[Adam Smith] How did you hear the news?
[Aziz Sancar] I just got a call half an hour ago. My wife took it and woke me up. I wasn’t expecting it at all, I was very surprised.
[Adam Smith] [Laughs] I can hear it in your voice. What was the first thing you did on hearing the news?
[Aziz Sancar] I tried my best to be coherent, I was sleeping, and it was a pleasant experience.
[Adam Smith] It must be quite extraordinary, what an amazing phone call to receive. I believe I’m right in thinking that you’re the first Turkish born scientist to receive the Nobel Prize?
[Aziz Sancar] Scientist. Orhan Pamuk got it in Literature a number of years ago.
[Adam Smith] Exactly, yes, but scientist yes. I imagine that not only will there be celebrations in Chapel Hill but there will be big celebrations in Turkey today.
[Aziz Sancar] I’m sure there will be. Yes they’ve been asking over the years and I was tired of hearing ‘when are you going to get the Nobel Prize?’ so I’m glad for my country as well.
[Adam Smith] Yes indeed. The Prize is of course for mechanistic studies of DNA repair and I suppose it’s been a mammoth task, and is still a mammoth task, mapping all the systems that protect our DNA.
[Aziz Sancar] Right.
[Adam Smith] And these repair mechanisms mostly protect us from cancer but presumably they also end up protecting cancer cells as well sometimes.
[Aziz Sancar] That is correct and they’re also important in cancer treatment because many of the anti-cancer drugs do damage DNA and whether cancer cells can repair it or not could influence how cancer is treated.
[Adam Smith] What do you think is going to happen to you now?
[Aziz Sancar] Well, my lectures start at the end of this month and go through December but I think I will try my best to go through with my lectures, but there will be some disruptions I think.
[Adam Smith] I imagine many. Are you looking forward to the attention that is about to descend on you?
[Aziz Sancar] I am of course honoured to get this recognition for all the work I’ve done over the years, but I’m also proud for my family and for my native country and my adopted country, and especially for Turkey it’s quite important.
[Adam Smith] Thank you very much indeed, well when you come to Stockholm in December for the awards ceremony we will have the chance to speak more about this.
[Aziz Sancar] OK, thank you.
[Adam Smith] OK, thank you. And my many, many congratulations on the award.
[Aziz Sancar] Thank you very much.
[Adam Smith] Thank you, bye bye.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.