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Tim Hunt: A Life in Science

On 29th June 2005 the Graduate School was delighted to host Dr Tim Hunt, Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine 2001, to give the first of its new lectures by distinguished speakers. Dr Hunt shared the Nobel Prize with Leland H. Hartwell and Sir Paul Nurse, for his contributions to understanding protein synthesis, proteolysis, and cell cycle transitions. During the inspirational lecture graduates listened to an account of Dr Hunt's career from his early days as a fresh-faced PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry here in Cambridge, eager to unravel the mysteries of how the cell cycle is regulated, to his current position as Principal Scientist at Cancer Research UK, Clare Hall Laboratories. What made the lecture different to others that graduate students may experience during their PhD was that this was not a purely scientific talk. Dr. Hunt described factors that have been crucial in the progression of his career. These included relationships with mentors such as Francis Crick, the ability to take a real scientific question and approach it in new ways and even, surprisingly, an occasion in Cambridge when his laboratory burnt down. However when asked by a member of the audience what is truly required to win a Nobel Prize he had a simple answer - luck. After the lecture Dr. Hunt was hosted to dinner by a selection of graduates who took the opportunity to further question Dr Hunt both on his academic career and on how to progress in their own careers.