Nobel Prizes: the fairy tale of science?

 cred: Akademie / Alamy

As a graduate student in neuroscience, I’ve sat through my fair share of science lectures. Aside from distracted students and enzyme cascades, a common recurring theme are Nobel Laureates. Time and time again we would be presented with a key concept and the experiments that led to its discovery, followed by a slide showing two or three smiling older men and a Nobel medal. That medal is included on PowerPoint slides to validate the lesson for the day and to give students something to aspire to. Seems pretty perfect, right? A lone genius would devise a theory, test it, walk away with a Nobel, and live happily ever after.

The problem is that this narrative fails dramatically at illustrating the way science is actually conducted. It doesn’t promote the critical thinking necessary for future scientists, and it alienates students that don’t see themselves represented in the pantheon of Nobel Laureates.

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