Any mention of a Nobel Prize immediately draws my attention. Nobel Prizes are considered to among the highest and most respected awards one can receive. So, when my Cell Biology professor recommended that we attend a lecture, titled “GFP: Lighting Up Life,” given by Martin Chalfie, one of the three winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2008, I was definitely interested. The attendance of the event was huge. It was held in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies auditorium, but there were so many people, the event was also broadcasted to an audience in the Bruggeman Conference Center.
The prize was awarded for the discovery of the green fluorescent protein. GFP is exactly what it sounds like; it is literally a green glowing protein that was found in a jellyfish. While the science behind GFP interests me, it might not appeal to everyone. However, Chalfie’s incredible abilities as a speaker made a topic that should be boring and lackluster to the everyday person a lively, amusing subject.
I knew this lecture was going to be like no other that I had attended, from the moment that Chalfie plugged his iPhone into the computer, from which, his entire lecture was going to be given. The content of the lecture consisted of the entire history of how GFP came to be found and the discoveries about its unique characteristics that make it so beneficial to research and medicine, and its overall impact on science and culture.
Chalfie, modest about his contributions to the development of GFP which has become an extremely useful tool in science, acknowledged basically everyone that played a role in the development, including the graduate students that were working in his lab and the lesser known members of his team. I really appreciated both his humbleness and his acknowledgements of those who helped him; it’s not too often that you encounter a successful person who does so.
What really made the lecture interesting was Chalfie’s integration of humor and the connections that he established between GFP and the average person. Chalfie made science, let alone chemistry, funny and genuinely interesting. I was able to fully engage and understand (and enjoy) what he was saying. I think it’s safe to say that everyone who attended, or virtually attended in the Bruggeman Conference Room, left “GFP: Lighting Up Life” enlightened and had their spirits lifted by Chalfie’s positive attitude and personality.