“I’m here to celebrate DNA,” said Moses Kim while waiting in line to enter the Cox Science Center.
Students, staff, faculty and the general public poured into Cox on Wednesday night to attend the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Discovery of the Double Helix Structure of DNA.
The lecture, given by Sir Aaron Klug, 1982 Nobel Laureate, was sponsored by many organizations including UM, Virgin Atlantic Airlines and the British Consulate.
Many were surprised by the high turnout.
“The students at UM showed even more enthusiasm about the event that I expected,” Simon Davey, of the British Consulate, said.
Every seat in the auditorium was taken; students even stood in the back to listen. Dr. Luis Glaser, UM executive VP and provost, declared the lecture to be an extraordinary event.
Klug delved into the history of the discovery of the double helix preceding the culmination of the landmark paper by Watson and Crick in 1953. In addition to describing the basic structure of DNA and the methods used to discover it, he offered personal information from his firsthand experiences that no textbook could.
He described the competition, pressure and nervousness felt by all of the scientists in the race to decipher the secret of life.
Interestingly, Watson and Crick had been banned for a period of time from working together on DNA after they introduced their controversial hypothesis, and were only allowed to resume their studies once other prominent scientists began competing with British scientists.
This rare insight into science displayed many personal scribbles and rough drafts by the scientists in a slideshow accompanying the presentation.
“A thunderbolt from the blue,” Klug said, demonstrating the magnitude of genius required to conjure a helical model with a two-fold geometry, antiparallel chains and complementary base-pairing.
Dr. Wang, a professor of biology, agreed with Klug’s statement that the helical structure of DNA is “an icon for science.”
“I hope that students will take something away from this experience of meeting a legend of science firsthand and be impelled to pursue research,” Wang said.
Kylee Maywald took away more than knowledge from the lecture- she won two roundtrip tickets to London in a raffle hosted by Virgin Atlantic.
“I won – I’ve never won anything before,” Maywald said.
Klug left the audience with inspirational words: “There is no straight path; only hard work will find the way. Don’t be deterred – love the subject that you study.”
Wang expects that the event will be beneficial to UM.
“This event will boost the College of Arts and Sciences, especially in the molecular and cellular biology approaches,” Wang said.
Additionally, the School of Medicine also serves to gain recognition for working with the British government to make the event possible.
The exhibit in the Cox lobby is expected to draw at least 5,000 visitors from on campus and around the community.
Students from all disciplines can learn from the exhibit because it is presented in a timeline without confusing technical terms.
Vivek Kalra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.