Science as a “treasure hunt”: Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Macmillan

Der frischgebackene Nobelpreisträger David MacMillan wurde angeblich nur deshalb Chemiker, weil in diesem Studienfach besser geheizt wurde als in Physik (Pressebild Princeton).

“It was very hot in the chemistry auditorium, so I changed my subject”. It sounds trivial now, but “of course I liked this topic too.” Even in high school, he most likely enjoyed scientific subjects, also influenced by his older brother.

For his doctorate, the researcher, born in Belshill, Scotland, in 1968 went to the University of California at Irvine, then Harvard University on the east coast of the US, and then back to California as a professor for a few years.

He has been working at Princeton University since 2006, where he runs its own laboratory named after him and has been heading the chemistry department ever since. In addition to work, McMillan says he is primarily interested in sports. He also spends a lot of time with his family.

Knowledge is good, but innovation is everything

Science is a “treasure hunt” for him and physicist Albert Einstein – also a Nobel laureate and once at Princeton – his “favourite scientist,” Macmillan once said. “Because he said imagination is more important than knowledge, and that’s how I see it. Knowledge is fine, but thinking about the future, innovating, creating — that’s all.”

The biggest thing for them is “being able to get completely different results in the lab than ever before,” says the researcher, who has already published dozens of expert articles and books and based his discoveries on this. But many companies have been established. “At that point you can see the possibilities open to you and that is wonderful. This feeling in science – there is nothing better than this.”

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Macmillan has already received several prestigious awards, now being awarded the Nobel Prize. «People like me are always cynical when it comes to awards and say they mean nothing to us – until we get one and then we are extremely happy. It makes you feel recognized by the community, and that’s a great feeling.”


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