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In the Nobel week: lecture by Dr. Ohsumi (2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine)

In Stockholm, there are three festivals to celebrate in December: Christmas, Lucia, and Nobel week!

Nobel week 

While the Nobel banquet and Nobel Prize award ceremony seem distant, the Nobel lecture series is something that you cannot miss! It is delivered by the Nobel Prize laureates of the year, and conducted in English. Furthermore, it requires no registration, no identity check nor admission fee: all members of the general public are welcome! (for the full program list, click here)

There are two Nobel lectures:

1. Wednesday 7 December: Lecture in Physiology or Medicine

Aula Medica Karolinska Institutet, Nobels väg 6, 2.30 p.m.

2. Thursday 8 December: Lectures in Physics, Chemistry and in Economic Sciences 

Aula Magna, Stockholm University, 9.00 a.m.

As my study programme is Molecular Techniques in Life Science, without a doubt, my choice is the lecture given by Dr. Ohsumi, the Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine. Because the lecture started at 14:30, I managed to arrive at 12:00 PM — there was already a long queue!

Queue outside the Aula Medica at 12:10 PM, more than 2 hours before lecture began

There were journalists from different countries, walking around with their bulky equipment. My classmates Karine and Javi were “caught” by a Japanese television:

After waiting for an hour outdoor, we were allowed to enter the lecture hall. The hall was full at around 14:15, when all the invited guests were assigned to their seats. Finally, it came Dr. Ohsumi!

Nobel Lecture in Physiology or Medicine

In his speech, Dr. Ohsumi summarized his 27-year research in autophagy, a process of “self-eating” in cells. Although “self-eating” sounds negative, it is a critical process in our body. Without proper control in this process, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, premature aging might all appear. In fact, I still remember a question in my mid-term exam of translational medicine one month ago:

“Explain what the role of autophagy in lipid-laden macrophage formation is and how autophagy impairment might affect the atherosclerosis progression”

From this single question, you can see that the prevalence of autophagy in the study of a wide range of diseases nowadays. However, at the beginning of Dr. Ohsumi’s career, few people could foresee the importance of studying a molecular process in baker’s yeasts, shortage in funding and research assistants were the problems that once entangled him. Despite of these difficulties, he became the first person to identify the essential proteins involved and elucidate the pathway. Nowadays, his achievement benefits countless biomedical studies: as Alfred Nobel once said “For the greatest benefit to mankind”.

I truly believe that his story will keep inspiring generations of students and researchers in life sciences, to confront with challenges in adversities, and  to pursue knowledge out of curiosity but not merely short-term interest.

At the end of lecture, loud applause by the audience

Tips  for attending the Nobel lecture series

If you are planning to go the the lecture next year, below are my own tips for you:

1. No dressing code is in force. (Though it is December and you may need to queue outdoor, so wear comfortable and warm.)

2. Arrive before 1 PM, not too late but also not too early

3. Miss the lecture? No worry, broadcast can be found at

3. Bring a camera. Otherwise, your photo might look like this:


2 thoughts on “In the Nobel week: lecture by Dr. Ohsumi (2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine)”

  1. It was great spending December in Stockholm for its three festivals.

  2. That’s true! December is the month of celebration, which helps us to fight against coldness and the endless night.

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