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Falling in love with Prague


Deciding to apply to Prague and the entrance exam
Jan Klein Scientist
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I decided that I will apply for admission in that university in Prague. There was two reasons for it. I knew a lot about Prague from reading and always wanted to see it, was interested in it's history and it's art and so on. By that time I was interested in music also and Prague, of course, had a much better music life than either Olomouc or Brno. So I was hoping that I could study in Prague and have also these opportunities on the side. Of course it was very risky because the admission was more difficult to Prague than anywhere else because simply there were more applicants and you had to pass the entrance examination. Well at the entrance examination a funny thing happened. I was doing well in most of the subjects except, for some reason, in physics. I just didn't know the particular area that I was asked about so it didn't look too good. Then the last examiner was from biology, he was a young person who was apparently an expert on violets.  It sounds funny that people can be expert on different plants, but it's the fact. There are many different species of violets and if you want to know... everybody can learn how to identify them but the different forms and varieties and where they grow and under what circumstances and so on, for that you have to study and you become an expert on it. So he happened to be an expert on violets. And I had, in my application, I stated that I did some botanical research in association with the institute that was in Silesia and so he asked me what did I collect and I told him, and he asked violets... of course about violets and I told him all the violets that were growing in the area and we got into the discussion like we were two botanists rather than examiner and examined person.  So he obviously realized that I knew a lot about this particular area, and so I think it was mainly on his recommendation that I was accepted, although with the recommendation that I should fill up on the physics, which I did, I think, just a few years ago, only.

Born in 1936, Jan Klein is a Czech-American immunologist who co-founded the modern science of immunogenetics – key to understanding illness and disease. He is the author or co-author of over 560 scientific publications and of seven books including 'Where Do We Come From?' which examines the molecular evolution of humans. He graduated from the Charles University at Prague in 1955, and received his MS in Botany from the same school in 1958. From 1977 to his retirement in 2004, he was the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biology at Tübingen, Germany.

Listeners: Colm O'hUigin

Colm O'hUigin is a senior staff scientist at the US National Cancer Institute. He received his BA, MSc and PhD at the Genetics Department of Trinity College, Dublin where he later returned as a lecturer. He has held appointments at the Center for Population and Demographic Genetics, UT Houston, and at the University of Cambridge. As an EMBO fellow, he moved in 1990 to the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen, Germany to work with Jan Klein and lead a research group studying the evolutionary origins of immune molecules, of teeth, trypanosomes and of species.

Tags: Prague, Olomouc, Brno, Silesia

Duration: 3 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008