Elizabeth Blackburn goes back to school

“In science most things fail” Nobel Laureate, Professor Elizabeth Blackburn told an auditorium full of Year 11 and 12 students from the school named in her honour, the Elizabeth Blackburn Science School, University High School, on Friday morning 31st July 2015.

“Challenge is the name of the game and you get resilient. Keep persisting, but also know when to give up,” she said.

Professor Blackburn recalls the most challenging time in her career as being when she was transitioning from a PhD student to an early career scientist. Feeling extremely daunted and with low confidence, it was her supervisor that validated her ability and gave her the courage to go on.

Earlier on, it was having a high school teacher who recognised that she was good at maths, who encouraged her to pursue her dream to be a scientist.

She explained that even if the students did not pursue science careers, science gives you a very powerful way of thinking: “It replaces fearful responses and ignorance,” she says. “Science is a critical process, of doubting received wisdom.”

Elizabeth Blackburn translated one of the quotes from her role model, two times Nobel Laureate, Marie Curie: “Nothing is life is to be feared, only to be understood.”

In the course of the morning, Elizabeth Blackburn toured the school, engaged with students and listened to research presentations from two students as part of their Extended Investigations subject.

These students are being mentored by University of Melbourne researchers. Ryan Huang, who compared the literature on the efficacy of various Ebola treatments, was mentored by Ashley Callahan of the Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute.

By Florienne Loder