“Always there is a problem and I have to solve the problem”
Telephone interview with Shuji Nakamura following the announcement of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics, 7 October 2014. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer of Nobel Media.
[Shuji Nakamura] Hello, I’m Shuji Nakamura.
[Adam Smith] Oh, Professor Nakamura. Thank you very much for speaking to us and congratulations on the award.
[SN] OK. Thank you, thank you.
[AS] So can you tell me, where were you when you heard the news?
[SN] At my home. I was sleeping.
[AS] You were sleeping. [Laughs] A nice way to be woken up!
[SN] Yeah. [Laughs]
[AS] What was your initial reaction on hearing the news?
[SN] Yeah, I was so surprised because I’m not too sure whether I could win a Nobel Prize, you know, because basically physics, it means that usually people was awarded for the invention of the basic theory. But in my case, not a basic theory, in my case just making the device, you know. So I’m not sure whether I could win a Nobel Prize or not, but the Nobel Committee called me and “You got the Nobel Prize”. So, I was so, so happy, and I was so surprised.
[AS] That’s very nice and very humble of you. But your device is everywhere now. One cannot move but for finding LEDs everywhere. So how do you feel now that your invention is ubiquitous?
[SN] Yeah, of course I am very, very happy, because my device is everywhere. It is everywhere to save energy. So I am very happy every time I see my LED and laser diode. So I am very happy.
[AS] Did you ever imagine it would become so important?
[SN] No, no! When I started on my research I never expected I could invent the LED and laser diode. So I never… I was so lucky
[AS] But people said that it would be very, very hard to make a blue LED. What gave you the courage to continue and make it happen?
[SN] Oh, because basically I like research because research is like to solve the quiz, you know. Always there is a problem and I have to solve the problem. So I like those patterns. It’s almost like research is sort of in a quiz. So always, problems happen and I wanted to solve the problem. And so that’s why I continued for research using those styles. So basically I like research, so that is the reason.
[AS] And what advice do you have for students who are just starting out?
[SN] I think the most important thing is students have to find out is what you like, what I like, you know. And almost it’s like a dream. And then, just work hard for your dream. I think that’s the best way, you know, to a good invention.
[AS] Now it’s the middle of the night there in California where you are.
[AS] Will you get any sleep at all tonight?
[SN] No, basically no, because the Nobel Committee called me at 2 am and since that time all mass media is coming. A lot of Japanese … [unclear]. So, no time for sleep and no time for rest. Yeah, it’s amazing.
[AS] Are you enjoying yourself, yes?
[SN] Yes, I’m enjoying. [Laughs] Yeah. But too many mass media! Yes, I’m enjoying. It’s a totally different experience!
[AS] Good. Well for now let me just wish you all congratulations on your Prize.
[SN] OK, thanks very much.
[AS] And good luck with everything that’s going to happen tonight.
[SN] OK, thank you, thanks a lot.
[AS] Thank you very much for speaking to us.
[SN] Thank you, bye.
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