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Spring 2000

Nobel Men
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It was, Boyer says, the "capstone" of his career. Although it did not lead to further work on his part, he observes that the secretaries at UCLA now know where to find him. He has forgiven the "leading journal" that rejected his work. In retrospect, he says the Nobel Prize was "the last thing I had in mind when I happened to pick a problem with such an unusual solution," and he credits his choice to pure luck. The other major factor that got him the Prize, he says, was "longevity: I outlived all my competitors."

For others, longevity may be one of the benefits of Boyer's research. He has enhanced understanding of the kind of damage caused at the molecular level by disease and aging. One potential application of his work is to prevent that damage from happening to the cells of human beings.

And the prize itself will help to bring about that, and other benefits as well. Boyer says "one of the services of the Nobel Foundation" is to call attention to basic science so that the importance of new fields can be recognized. "It's a pleasure to my former students; it gives them a boost. It makes people who've hired them think they're better because they worked with a Nobel Prize winner."

In fact, the research groups developed at UCLA and other American institutions are, for Boyer, an "important return on investment that is hardly ever recognized by the public" that pays for them. There is "a tremendous apprentice teaching system, a relationship between professors, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows" that provides "the most effective tool that society could develop" for encouraging basic science and all its beneficial consequences.

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