Four Nobel Laureates express surprise at the success of their careers

By Somi Jun, Correspondent

Four of the Nobel Laureates on Princeton University’s faculty expressed surprise at their career trajectories during a panel discussion in McCosh Hall April 13.

Both Chris Sims and Eric Wieschaus, who won Nobel Prizes in Economic Sciences and Physiology or Medicine respectively, wanted to pursue the arts as students. Similarly, Angus Deaton and Duncan Haldane noted the unexpectedness of their Nobel Prize wins in Economics Sciences and Physics respectively.

The panel was part of Princeton’s “Last Lectures 2017” series for graduating seniors. Deaton directed his advice to students, encouraging them to not overplan their lives since they don’t know what they’re best at yet. Similarly, Wieschaus, who wanted to be a visual artist at the beginning of his university years, said that there is an element of randomness in finding a well-fitting career.

“Since we’re all different from each other, one obvious thing is that you have to find a match between your peculiar set of skills and loves that you have,” Wieschaus said. “For me, that can be somewhat of a random walk.”

Sims further detracted from the idea of a career-centered existence, saying that life is not about seeking recognition. Sims said that he wanted to be a jazz trombonist and a mathematician in high school. He still plays the trombone, because whether or not he makes a career off of it, he enjoys the music.

“Just because you’re not the best at something, doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time,” Sims said. “Life is a process and it’s not a process of picking up prizes or rewards. If you’re going to be happy, you’ve got to enjoy the flow in the moment and not necessarily condition that on being recognized with rewards or prizes.”

Sims also said that he based many of his career decisions on family circumstances and that he would not change how his personal obligations have affected his career.

“It’s important to have family, to have people that you’re comfortable with and intimate with and willing to share ideas with. That’s worth a lot and I wouldn’t want to sacrifice it for some career,” Sims said.