- Burnett School Cancer Division Cardio-Metabolism Division College of Medicine Faculty News Infectious Disease Division Neurodegenerative Division Students
A knighted British physician-scientist became a sushi-eating inspiration to young discoverers during the College of Medicine’s international Inflammation and Health Conference October 15-17.
Sir Salvador Moncada, M.D., director of the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research at University College and researcher at the Institute of Cancer Sciences at the University of Manchester, spoke at the conference, where he seemed to be perpetually surrounded by graduate students from the college’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. The students even invited Dr. Moncada to a downtown Orlando sushi restaurant and took him on a walk around Lake Eola, where he enjoyed their excitement about science and the downtown park’s famous swans and ducks.
“Your students have a great deal of excitement and passion in what they’re doing,” he said. “They surprised me how much they interact, how much they know about each other’s work. You have a fantastic system for training and inspiring young scientists.”
The students said they were awestruck at Dr. Moncada’s humility and his willingness to give them advice on their research. They said he not only inspired them about scientific discovery but shared stories of his worldwide travels. Ph.D. student Aladdin Riad was Dr. Moncada’s aide throughout the conference and when the world renowned scientist said he didn’t eat meat but loved fish, Riad suggested students take him out for sushi. Dr. Moncada told the students he’d dined on the world’s best sushi while in Japan but that Orlando’s was also delightful.
“He is the most amazing person,” Riad said. “So easy to talk to and relatable.” He also had plenty of scientific advice. He told the students to try and disprove – not prove — their hypotheses in the lab because doing so would give them more confidence in their results. He told them that all scientists get frustrated and overwhelmed. Write down all the problems with your experiment, he advised, then put the sheet of paper in a drawer. Take a break, take a vacation, visit a new place. When you return, he said, the solution will likely appear because you’ve given yourself the opportunity to have a new perspective.
“He showed us we all face the same problems,” said Ph.D. student Sarah Gitto, “even a knight who has written more than 500 papers.”
Also dining with Dr. Moncada were graduate students Ana Carr and Richard Barrett. The students are doing research on a variety of topics – including pancreatic cancer, cardiovascular and infectious diseases. They said they were delighted by Dr. Moncada’s interest in all their areas of science and his suggestions on their work.
“Your students were sharing what they’re discovering,” he said. “They were all talking about their experiments and they were asking penetrating questions. It was wonderful.”
He found his own passion for discovery at a young age. “I was always wondering how things worked,” he said, “about how the animals lived, how the organs worked inside the body. I always knew I wanted to be in medicine – but in the research area.” He said he loves interacting “with young people who have an interest and passion for science. It’s an exciting time for them.”