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Working on the thesis

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One class, three Nobels
Renato Dulbecco Scientist
Comments (1) Please sign in or register to add comments
Emilio Trussardi
Monday, 02 August 2010 06:40 AM
This class was really amazing. Their teacher Levi was a close friend of Filippo Turati,and the father...
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This class was really amazing. Their teacher Levi was a close friend of Filippo Turati,and the father of Natalia Ginzburg a famous Italian Writer.
Allora finisce durante- l'università, c'è stato per me un avvenimento di grande- di grandissimo valore ed è stato questo. Dunque, il primo anno sono stato lì, ho preso gli esami per dei corsi, quelli che erano per il primo anno, per cui un corso di biologia, ho fatto gli esami, allora tutti 30 e lode. Il secondo anno quando siamo andati lì, sono stato informato che il professore di anatomia, che si chiamava Giuseppe Levi, il professore di anatomia, che naturalmente insegnava anatomia, ma lui era un biologo che lui aveva- ogni anno prendeva uno o due studenti nel laboratorio per fare lavori, per sperimentare in biologia e allora io ho chiesto se potevo entrare in questo gruppo. Siccome avevo fatto molto bene negli esami, il professor Levi mi ha accettato e così sono entrato a far parte di questo gruppo e con me, dello stesso anno, è entrata anche, Rita Levi Montalcini, che eravamo insieme e lavoravamo insieme nella stessa stanza su campi diversi, facevamo cose diverse perché lei si interessava allo sviluppo dell'embrione e questo è poi come è riuscita a scoprire il fattore di crescita del sistema nervoso, mentre invece io ero più interessato a cose che avevano a che fare coi geni, sebbene dei geni non se ne parlasse allora, ma insomma l'idea era quella, come avviene che c'è un'espressione che la cellula cambia e le cellule sono diverse, insomma. E cercavo di fare del mio meglio per fare qualcosa. Ora la cosa importante, più che quello che facevo lì, era il fatto che ci fosse questo maestro, che era Giuseppe Levi, che era veramente un grande maestro, perché lui era sempre al corrente di quello che facevamo. Lui non ci diceva che cosa fare, lasciava a noi la scelta e poi magari la criticava o faceva dei commenti sulla scelta. Se lui credeva che la scelta fosse cattiva, ce lo diceva, se era buona, ce lo diceva. Se avevamo dei risultati, andavamo da lui a dirglielo e lui allora voleva subito controllare, vedere tutto quello che era fatto, per cui tante volte riconosceva che c'erano degli errori e allora ce lo diceva, dice -Questo no. Se invece vedeva che tutto andava bene, ci incoraggiava ad andare avanti. Insomma, è stata per me una cosa fantastica, perché l'influenza di Levi mi ha fatto capire com'è che si fa la ricerca scientifica, cioè libertà d'azione, sei indipendente, fai quello che pensi si debba fare, il controllo è solo un controllo di riflesso, cioè ti dicono -Ma questo è molto bravo, molto bene, vai avanti oppure dice -Guarda questo forse non è bene ecc. e queste cose lì, tutto lì. È questo che ha portato- da lì sono venuti fuori tre Premi Nobel: Rita Levi Montalcini, Salvador Luria, che era un anno davanti a noi, e io in campi completamente diversi. Ma direi che in linea chi e stato il primo Salvador Luria, poi tu e poi la Rita? Sì, poi io e poi Rita Si può dire che un personaggio come Levi ha capito lo stimolo della creatività inventiva, perché vi ha stimolato in questo modo, cosa che dovrebbero fare veramente i grandi maestri. E questo noi lo abbiamo imparato perché con Luria, quando io poi per esempio sono andato negli Stati Uniti, sono andato a lavorare con Luria e lì Luria mi ha trattato esattamente come Levi mi trattava e questo è stato molto bello, bello ecc. Insomma anche noi- io ho avuto molti studenti nel mio campo e difatti 5 dei miei studenti hanno preso il Premio Nobel. Un bel numero- studenti o perlomeno persone che son venute a lavorare con me Poi ci dirai chi sono stati questi Premi Nobel Sì, certo, questo è facile. Dunque, perciò, questa qui era veramente la parte più importante per me, per la mia vita universitaria.

So, lets finish talking about university, There was an event there that was of great value and it was as follows. The first year I was there, I sat my exams for the courses, which was a biology course in the first year, I took the exams and received 30 cum laude for all of them. The second year when we went there, I was informed that the anatomy professor, who was called Giuseppe Levi, the anatomy professor, who of course taught anatomy, but he was a biologist who took one or two students every year into his laboratory to carry out work, for experiments in biology and then I asked if I could join this group. As I did very well in my exams, Professor Levi accepted me and so I joined this group and in the same year, Rita Levi Montalcini also entered with me, so that we were together and worked together in the same room on different projects, we were doing different things because she was interested in embryo development and this is how she managed to discover the growth factor of the nervous system, while I was more interested in things to do with genes, even though genes were not talked about then, but briefly the idea was that, how does it happen that there is an expression that the cell changes and cells are different. And I was trying to do my best to do something. Now the important thing, more than what I was doing there, was the fact that there was this teacher, who was Giuseppe Levi, who really was a great teacher, because he was always up to date with what we were doing. He never told us what to do, he left us to make our own choices and then of course he criticised or made comments on the choice. If he felt that we had made the wrong choice, he would say so, if we'd made the right choice, he would say so. If we had results, we went to tell him and then he wanted to check them straightaway, to see all that had been done, and on many occasions we acknowledged that there were mistakes and so he would say so, he would say- Not this way. If, however, he saw that everything was going well, he encouraged us to go on. In short, it was a wonderful thing for me, because Levi's influence made me understand how scientific research is carried out, that is, the freedom of action, you are independent, do what you think you should do, checks are only reflex checks, so he would say to you- This is excellent, carry on or-Perhaps this is not so good, etc. It is this that led- from here three Nobel Prize winners ensued: Rita Levi Montalcini, Salvador Luria, who was one year ahead of us, and me in completely different fields. But of the three of you, who would you put first: Salvador Luria, then you and then Rita? Yes, then me and then Rita It can be said Levi understood the incentive of inventive creativity, because he stimulated you in this way, which is what great teachers should really do. And this is what we learned because with Luria, when I then for example went to the United States, I went to work with Luria and there Luria treated me exactly as Levi had done and this was a great thing. Anyhow, we also- I had many students in my field and in fact 5 of my students went on to win the Nobel Prize. A great number- students or at least people who came to work with me Could you tell us who these Nobel Prize winners were. Yes, of course, this is easy. So, then, this really was the most important part for me, for my university life.

The Italian biologist Renato Dulbecco (1914-2012) had early success isolating a mutant of the polio virus which was used to create a life-saving vaccine. Later in his career, he initiated the Human Genome Project and was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for furthering our understanding of cancer caused by viruses.

Listeners: Paola De Paoli Marchetti

Paola De Paoli Marchetti is a science journalist who graduated with an honours degree in foreign languages and literature from the University Ca’Foscari, Venice. She has been a science journalist since the 1960s and has been on the staff of the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore since 1970. She was elected president of UGIS (Italian Association of Science Journalists) in 1984. She has been a Member of the Board of EUSJA (European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations, Strasbourg), and was its president in 1987-1988 and 1998-2000. In May 2000 she was unanimously elected president emeritus. She was a member of the National Council of Italian Journalists (1992-1998). From 2002 to 2004 she was member of the working group for scientific communication of the National Committee for Biotechnology. She has also been a consultant at the Italian Ministry of Research and Technology and editor-in-chief of the publication MRST, policy of science and technology. She has co-authored many publications in the field of scientific information, including Le biotecnologie in Italia, Le piste della ricerca and Luna vent’anni dopo.

Duration: 4 minutes, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008