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Nurturing a Scientific Culture
hmed H Zewail received the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies of the transition states of chemical reactions using femtosecond (one millionth of a billionth second) spectroscopy. He showed that rapid laser techniques make it possible to see how atoms in a molecule move during a chemical reaction.

The professor from the California Institute of Technology is among one of its 30 researchers who have received NobelPrizes. INNOVATIONís Lay Leng TAN met with the avid proponent of scientific research and education when he was in Singapore in 2002 to deliver a World Scientific Nobel Laureate Public Lecture. He shared his insights on how countries and institutes can help nurture great scientific minds.

How do you nurture the young so that they will not only take an interest in science but also feel motivated to move into the field as a career?

I think that outcome evolves in two ways: (1) the country itself must emphasise the significance of science in the development of civilisation, and (2) the scientific community in that country must teach well and project scientific abstract ideas in clear and exciting ways. If you are young and you are thinking about science, usually a mentor or a family member becomes a role model; or you hear something on TV or the radio that inspires you. But most important, the emphasis on science education must begin in the primary schools so that good minds can consider heading in that direction early. Young people do not see this excitement in science now in the early stages of education.
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