Events Top Talk: A Life in Science

Time: Thursday, September 27, 2018 19:00-20:30
Location: Lecture Hall, Weilun Building, School of Economics and Management,Tsinghua University

Nancy Rothwell
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester
Fellow of the Royal Society
Co-chair of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Techology
Founding President of the Royal Society of Biology

On the evening of Thursday 27th September, around 300 students enjoyed a discussion with Dame Nancy Rothwell; a lady with an immense list of achievements within academia globally and a role model to students, researchers and other leaders in both China and the UK. As President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Nancy Rothwell took to the floor in purple, reminding the Tsinghua students attending that both Manchester and Tsinghua’s university colours are the same. Throughout the evening Nancy Rothwell prompted the audience to think more of the complementary elements between the two universities, two countries and research areas.

Whilst Nancy Rothwell drew on her wealth of experience, she also brought the audience back to some themes from the book Advice to a Young Scientist by Sir Peter Medawar, which has been hugely influential for her personally. She used both comments Sir Peter made in the book about ‘what a scientist is’ and her own personal life story to help illustrate that scientists are not a club of people exclusively interested in science. Just like their humanities counterparts’ scientists have similar creative skills – for example her lifelong passion for art.

Nancy Rothwell walked through some of her extraordinary research and findings, from the beginning of her career, to the exciting research she is in the midst of today. She explained her early research into metabolism, cachexia and cytokines, in particular the role of Interleukin 1, clearly helping the audience to appreciate the serendipity that led her to being able to make the findings that she did. For the scientists in the audience, familiar with this line of research, to hear more about it from such an expert in her field and gain an insight into the direction the research is going is was an incredible opportunity.

Nancy Rothwell brought the audience back to her first few comments about drawing on the similarities between colleagues, countries, and universities to collaborate in the way advocated by Sir Peter Medawar. In particular, she highlighted the core role of collaboration in successful research, and also more broadly in different academic and professional situations. She left the students with a few words of advice; when researching, and in a job, there are three key things she to hold as rocks; firstly the project, secondly the place, and thirdly the people.

During the Q&A session following the discussion, students had the opportunity to ask any questions on their mind, and Nancy Rothwell shared more on some of the successes, lessons and challenges she has experienced through her career, as well as her aspirations for the on-going cooperation between Tsinghua University and the University of Manchester.

By Holly Holdsworth