Nobel laureates in Singapore next week

NTU President Prof Bertil Andersson giving a speech at the official opening of The Hive. The upcoming Nobel Prize Series will be produced by Nobel Media and the Nobel Museum in partnership with NTU.
NTU President Prof Bertil Andersson giving a speech at the official opening of The Hive. The upcoming Nobel Prize Series will be produced by Nobel Media and the Nobel Museum in partnership with NTU.NTU President Prof BerST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has, in the past year, been working the levers to bring the world's brightest minds - including not one, but five Nobel laureates - to Singapore as part of the inaugural Nobel Prize Series.

World-leading scientists, policymakers and thought leaders will congregate here over two days from Thursday next week to discuss the future of learning at the series.

The event, produced by Nobel Media and the Nobel Museum in partnership with NTU, will include a conference, four public lectures by the five Nobel laureates - Professor Wole Soyinka, Sir James Mirrlees, Sir Harold Walter Kroto, Professor Ada Yonath and Professor Stefan Hell - as well as an exhibition detailing the history of the Nobel Prize.

The series, the first of its kind, was set up to bring together experts to deliberate on critical issues that may arise in future.

Compared with previous Nobel- related events in Singapore, which tend to focus on physics, chemistry and medicine, the series will offer a broader scope of topics including literature and economics.

The idea of having such a major Nobel Prize event here was first mooted about a year ago.

  • 5 Nobel laureates giving public lectures

  • PROFESSOR STEFAN HELL (CHEMISTRY, 2014)

    Scientist Stefan Hell, 52, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Gottingen, Germany, together with two American researchers, won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry last year for using fluorescence - a phenomenon in which certain substances become luminous after having been exposed to light - to make microscopes more powerful than before, enabling deeper insight into cells.

    PROFESSOR JAMES MIRRLEES (ECONOMIC SCIENCES, 1996)

    Economist James Mirrlees, 79, of Scotland, received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1996 for his theory of optimal income taxation, which allowed optimal tax schedules to be calculated using realistic economic models.

    PROFESSOR HAROLD KROTO (CHEMISTRY, 1996)

    The English chemist shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of fullerenes - nanometre-scale carbon structures with remarkable properties and many potential applications. Sir Harold, 76, is currently carrying out research in nanoscience and cluster chemistry as well as developing new Internet approaches to educational outreach.

    PROFESSOR WOLE SOYINKA (LITERATURE, 1986)

    Nigerian playwright, novelist and poet Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. The 81-year-old, who continues to lecture extensively in Nigeria and around the world, is the first African to be honoured in that category.

    PROFESSOR ADA YONATH (CHEMISTRY, 2009)

    Professor Ada Yonath, 76, a director at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009 for her work with ribosomes. She is one of a handful of women who have won the prize in chemistry.

NTU president Bertil Andersson, one-time chairman of the Nobel prize committee for chemistry, told The Straits Times that both the university and the Nobel Foundation agreed that Singapore would be a wonderful venue for the event.

"It is apt and timely that Singapore is chosen as the venue, because this country is well-known globally for education excellence," said Professor Andersson, a biochemist and a trustee of the Nobel Foundation. The opportunity to host such an event also reflects NTU's "international reputation and meteoric rise in the academic world", he said.

Prof Andersson noted that the theme of this year's series - The Future of Learning - is relevant to NTU, which is seeking more effective ways of learning for students.

Last week , the university officially launched its $45 million learning hub, The Hive, to support the unconventional "flipped-classroom teaching", where instructions are delivered outside the classroom, leaving classroom time for activities such as discussions.

On Thursday morning next week, The Hive will host the first activity of the series: a closed-door executive roundtable dialogue, where the Nobel laureates, together with over 20 academics and business, political and student leaders, will discuss the challenges and opportunities for education in the 21st century.

The series will be launched by President Tony Tan Keng Yam in the afternoon at the main conference, where speakers from different fields will offer insights into what the future of learning holds.

Nobel Foundation executive director Lars Heikensten said the theme would explore how education systems should evolve to stay relevant in a changing world, and produce people capable of handling the challenges of tomorrow.

Individuals will get a rare chance to meet and hear from the Nobel laureates at four public lectures at NTU, Singapore Management University and the National Gallery of Singapore on Friday next week. 

A travelling exhibition, The Nobel Prize - Ideas Changing The World, will be on display at the ArtScience Museum from Saturday next week to Jan 24. Visitors to the free exhibition will be able to explore the history of the prize, the laureates and the life of Swedish chemist and innovator Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prize. Among the artefacts on display is Nobel's will, which will be digitally brought to life for the first time through Touch Art Gallery technology.

The Straits Times is the official media partner of the Nobel Prize Series Singapore 2015.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2015, with the headline 'Nobel laureates in S'pore next week'. Print Edition | Subscribe