Inspiring future Nobel Prize winners in the UAE

What does it take to become a Nobel Prize winner? Speakers at the Nobel Museum’s first workshop of 2017 share four secrets to intellectual success. Natasha D’Souza reports

The third annual edition of the Nobel Museum opened to the public earlier this week at the Children’s City in Dubai Creek Park. Held under the auspices of The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF) and organised in association with the Nobel Museum in Sweden, this year’s theme, “The Nobel Prize in Physics: Understanding Matter”, offers the public a special glimpse into the complex and fascinating world of physics and the work of famous Nobel Laureates, past and present.

At a special preview led by Gustav Källstrand, Senior Curator of the Nobel Museum in Sweden; and Anna Sjöström Douagi, Programme Director of the Nobel Center, nearly 400 Emirati school students were treated to a rich overview of the pioneering ideas shaped by Nobel-nominated inventors and scientists, who devoted their lives to studying the universe. 

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Gustav Källstrand, Senior Curator of the Nobel Museum in Sweden; and Anna Sjöström Douagi, Programme Director of the Nobel Center

The collaboration with the MBRF is in line with Dubai's goal of becoming a knowledge-based economy. “Our celebration of the world of physics and the achievements of Nobel Laureates in this discipline is intended to inspire the young generation in the UAE to follow in the footsteps of these passionate scientific adventurers, some of whom devoted 20 or 30 years to their discipline, determined to improvepeople's lives,” shared Källstrand. 

“Through the Nobel Museum, we hope to spark creativity and curiosity for science in young minds all over the country, who will one day lead future scientific discoveries and become champions in making this city one of the world's most prominent hubs for learning and science,” he explained.

So what are the building blocks if one aspires to be a Nobel Prize winner in the future? Douagi believes there is a “secret recipe” and some of its most vital ingredients are:

Constant curiosity

“A creative mind is first and foremost a curious one, always learning, questioning, absorbing,” explained Douagi to students. Källstrand emphasized that geniuses are not necessarily born but can also be nurtured and that everyone has a gift for creativity. “Geniuses not always born, they can be nurtured. Everyone has a certain capacity for genius and it is both an institutional and individual responsibility to encourage and allow that genius to bloom in our children and youth.”

Communicating with others

“One must not be in an isolated bubble, stewing on your idea alone. Reach out to others who are in your field of work or even those who are active in the subject areas that interest you and talk to them. They may be able to shed light on the idea you are considering. Maybe connect you with someone else who can help, become an advisor or even invest in your idea! You never know unless you reach out. Go to scientific meetings and keep meeting new people,” advised Douagi.

Courage

“Several Nobel laureates faced heavy criticism for their line of thinking, just because they were challenging the norm and questioning established scientific ideas,” noted Källstrand. “Despite the negativity, they stayed true to their belief and it takes courage to do that, to not let others pull you down and away from your path. Remember that the next time someone criticizes you.”

Persistence is key

“Breakthroughs don't happen overnight,” said Douagi. “You have to chase your idea and work very, very hard...sometimes for a very long time. I’m talking 10, 20,30 years even. Imagine if those scientists gave up along the way, we wouldn’t have the world as we know it, with all its amazing scientific advances. So follow your idea passionately. The future may be counting on your next discovery.”