Picture credit to: Karolin Luger
(1) What were you doing when informed of winning the WLA Prize? Can you share your emotions upon receiving the notification from the Chair please? What thoughts or opinions do you have regarding the award please?
I was literally lacing up my boots to hike one of the many spectacular mountains we have here in the Rocky Mountains. I had NO idea that this was coming, and it took me a while to process. It is wonderful that I get to share the prize with Drs. Rhodes and Richmond whom I have known for a long time, and who share my passion for the nucleosome and for structural biology. Needless to say, the hike was even better than anticipated as I had clouds under my feet!
(2) We are delighted to know that you will attend the award ceremony and the 6th WLA Forum in Shanghai. What are your expectations for both the Ceremony and Forum? Additionally, do you have any particular anticipations regarding your travels to Shanghai?
I heard from my students that the food is really good in Shanghai. I have only been to China once, a long time ago, and I am excited to go back. With respect to the ceremony, I view this as a big celebration for the nucleosome and I expect our beautiful and iconic structure will be front and center. I don’t really know what to expect for the ceremony, but I am ready for anything! It will be lovely to catch up with Drs. Richmond and Rhodes. The forum sounds super interesting and I am really looking forward to stimulating discussion and to meeting new people.
You are also very much welcome to share some interesting stories about yourself, regarding your personal life or your research, etc. if you would like to.
Here are three little bits – feel free to use whatever you want.
In 2019, a fellow researcher and artist (Prof. Bryan Welm, University of Utah; https://medicine.utah.edu/faculty/bryan-e-welm) made a large welded sculpture of a nucleosome that he then gifted to me. The beauty of the structure, so wonderfully represented in Bryan’s art, gives me joy every day. I hadn’t known Prof. Welm prior to this; he simply made it because he thought the structure was beautiful and he wanted to honor my contribution to it. To this day I am overwhelmed by his generosity. And I am pleased that our structure inspires artists.
I think doing science is a lot like hiking in the Rocky Mountains. We have many ‘fake summits’ – you climb a peak and you think it is your target, but when you are on the top you find out that the real summit is one or two or three ‘fake summits’ behind, another 2 hour hike! I always think of my accomplishments in this way – there is always the next, higher summit to reach, and one shouldn’t rest too much on the current one! so I am not really known for resting on my laurels.
My approach to science was shaped by both my parents who always told me and my siblings to apply ourselves 120%, no matter what we do. I have two older brothers who always did everything better than I did, and as such I was constantly motivated to improve. I played competition sport starting at age 7, and I learned early on that if you want to win you have to work really hard for it. I also learned to live with the many losses and mishaps that come with competitions, and to turn them into ‘fuel’ to continue and (sometimes) succeed. I think this is a lesson that most athletes have internalized, and it applies well to live in general.