What scientists understand, through innumerable failures and the rare success, is that science is a process that involves approaching the truth through trial and error, always realizing that you have only a part of the answer.
Solving humanity’s problems will require that understanding. – Dr. Lee Hartwell, Nobel Laureate
Dr. Hartwell recently accepted an appointment as Adjunct Professor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. In 2001, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discoveries of a specific class of genes that control the cell cycle and therefore all aspects of cell growth and division, providing important clues to understanding cancer.
Currently Chief Scientist at the Center for Sustainable Health, Arizona State University, he is also Director Emeritus at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, USA.
“After several interactions with faculty members at Amrita, we have agreed to collaborate on mutual goals for education,” he shared.
“The future of humankind depends on quality science education,” is Dr. Hartwell’s answer to those who might wonder why an outstanding scientist like him would become involved with educational matters.*
“There is a need for dramatic changes in the way we utilize natural resources — and that means that people, businesses, countries and international organizations will need to reach consensus on appropriate sustainable and equitable policies.”
Science education, according to Dr. Hartwell, will empower people to make intelligent decisions and consequently support appropriate policies.
The collaboration with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham has begun with a course on Sustainability Science for Teachers. “We are developing content for the course with the help of our colleagues in the School of Sustainability, Arizona State University. Amrita faculty will provide their expertise in using information technology to enhance instructions,” he shared.
Dr. Hartwell has interacted with Amrita faculty and students for quite some time now. In October 2009, he delivered a convocation speech to Amrita graduating students, where he explained that the science of sustainability was far more challenging than traditional science.
“First, the problems of sustainability are complex and therefore not subject to precise solutions,” he said. “Second, traditional science removes people from the system under study but with sustainability issues, we are part of the system. People’s values, motives and behaviors interact with the physical world to influence outcomes. The problems we face, involve all the complexity of the planet and human society.”
“What makes Amrita students special?” was a question he asked on the same occasion.
Providing the answer himself, he elaborated, “Western science leads to knowledge. Eastern science leads to understanding. You have had both the western and the eastern traditions in your education.”