Updated: Sunday, 13 Jun 2010, 6:01 PM CDT
Published : Sunday, 13 Jun 2010, 2:54 PM CDT
APPLETON, Wis. - How do you picture a Nobel Prize winner? Incredibly intelligent? Of course. Thought provoking? Sure. Humorous? In the case of Dr. Thomas Steitz, absolutely.
When asked where his Nobel Prize is, he responded,
“Ahh. I’m not telling! It’s hidden away!”
But all joking aside, Steitz offered some serious, sound advice for the Lawrence University Class of 2010.
“Do the most interesting thing you can. Follow your passion,” said Steitz.
It was that same advice that led Steitz to his major life accomplishment, winning the Nobel Prize in chemistry last year. In 1962, Steitz graduated from Lawrence University. It was on this campus his love for chemistry developed, in part thanks to his former Lawrence University teacher, Robert Rosenberg.
“I knew Tom was a very good student, but you never have an idea someone's going to win the Nobel Prize. That's rare,” said Rosenberg.
With the rare award, comes a lot of respect from colleagues and Lawrence University students.
“It's actually somewhat mind boggling, honestly, to think that someone who was in studying the same labs that I've been studying in went on to do such fantastic things. It's really inspiring,” said Catherine Albright, the recipient of one scholarship in Steitz’s name for science.
Steitz had even more inspiring advice for those trying to follow in his footsteps.
“A number of students and others have asked me, well, how do I win a Nobel Prize? That's the wrong goal. You don't seek that as a goal. You seek to try and do something you're really, really passionate about,” said Steitz.
Steitz describes winning the Nobel Prize as an incredible honor. But there's another honor from Lawrence University that he said was much more surprising.
“I sort of thought there was a possibility I might win the Nobel Prize. I never thought there was a possibility I'd have a building named after me,” said Steitz.
On Friday, Lawrence University renamed the science hall after Steitz in recognition of his achievements.
“I was more amazed when I got that phone call than when the Swedes called me!” said Steitz.
You can add humility to the list of Steitz's award-winning
personality traits as well.