By José Alberto Gaytán García*
In recent days, the ceremony of the prestigious Noble Prizes in its 2012 version was held at the Palace in Stockholm, Sweden’s capital. These awards are presented annually by the Nobel Foundation since 1901, on the anniversary of the death of its founder Alfred Nobel, to the best scientists in the world who are noted for their contributions on behalf of humanity.
In the presence of the Swedish royal family and leaders of 21 countries, the scientists received awards from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, a commemorative coin bearing the likeness of Nobel in 24 carat green gold and a check for 10 million Swedish kronor, equivalent to one million and two hundred thousand dollars. The designated amount aims to facilitate the development of future research, since those were the wishes of Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, who for that purpose inherited part of the substantial fortune that he obtained from the 90 factories of dynamite that he opened in 20 countries. In 2012, as usually happens every year, researchers from the best universities in the world “swept” the Nobel Prizes, for example, Physics was won by French scientist Serge Haroche, of the College de France and the American David J. Wineland, of the University of Colorado, for developing an experimental method to measure and manipulate individual quantum particles. These specialists in optical physics worked complex interactions between light and matter that will allow the advancement of a powerful new era of computing, called quantum computing. Similarly, the work of these formidable physicists will develop extremely accurate clocks that will serve to create a new standard of measurement of time, with ultra precision watches a hundred times higher than current Celsius watches.
The one for chemistry was received by Robert J. Lefkowitz, Professor of Biochemistry at Duke University in North Carolina and Brian K. Kobilka, Professor of Molecular Physiology at the Medical University of Stanford. Both scientists achieved the award for their studies of the inner workings of cellular protein receptors that enable the production of new drugs that are highly effective and with fewer side effects in the treatment of serious diseases such as cancer.
The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Professor John B. Gurdon of the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, UK and Shin’ya Yamanaka, a professor at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco, California, these researchers were able to create pluripotent stem cells capable of developing into any type of cells that help regenerate damaged tissues of the brain, heart and other important organs of the human body.
The Americans Alvin E. Roth, a professor at Harvard University and Lloyd S. Shapley, a professor at the University of California, won the Nobel Prize in Economics for their mathematical studies on economic markets and optimizing the mapping between the laws of supply and demand.
The Nobel Prize for Literature was won by the Chinese writer Mo Yan, for his work describing the complicated history of his country and his attachment to the landscapes of eastern China.
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union (EU), for progress made towards peace, democracy and human rights in Europe.
And Mexico, how did we do in 2012?
Well, it was bad, we did not win anything; but why don’t we win Nobel’s? The answer is simple and every year at this time we repeat it: Mexico does not win because we do not invest adequately in science and technology and because we do not have a true state policy that emphasizes scientific research. Therefore, we do not have neither equipped laboratories nor advanced research centers such as Harvard, Stanford, Duke and other universities winning Nobel Prizes.
There are other reasons that prevent Mexico from being a scientific powerhouse. For example, the “budget” that is assigned to most universities, technological and public institutions of higher education, is just enough to cover the payroll of staff that works there. In the “budget” of these institutions there is no place for researchers, or programs, or real economic incentives to promote research activities among our teachers and students. So you do not have to be a genius to understand why we do not win Nobel prizes.
It is urgent that the new government of President Peña Nieto invest adequately in science and technology, the only way to build a society of researchers capable of transforming Mexico into a modern and competitive country. HAPPY NEW YEAR AND BEST WISHES FOR 2013.
Acerca del autor
- José Alberto Gaytán García ha escrito artículos y ensayos de corte académico en diarios y revistas de México y de los Estados Unidos; ha participado en importantes proyectos académicos e impartido conferencias sobre temas de historia, tecnología y educación en el marco de las relaciones entre México y los Estados Unidos, tema en el cual realizó sus estudios de doctorado en The Graduate School of Internacional Studies de la Universidad de Miami.