Nobel laureate and alumnus encourages students to embrace inter-disciplinarity.
The RV Jones Science Lecture – the keynote of this year’s Science Fortnight – came from Nobel laureate Professor Sir Michael Houghton (Tyson's 1968). The talk, which was introduced by Head Jane Lunnon, took place on Monday 7 March at the MCT with Sir Michael beamed in from his home in California.
In her introduction, Mrs Lunnon described the profound impact of Sir Michael’s work and how much we can learn about the current pandemic and the development of vaccines from the progress he and his colleagues have made since their discovery of the Hepatitis C virus in 1989. Their breakthrough revealed the cause of much chronic blood-borne hepatitis – a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world – and was an important step in the development of blood tests and medications that have saved millions of lives. For the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, Michael Houghton was jointly awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. After the lecture, Mrs Lunnon reflected: “It was clear to everybody that from beginning to end we were in the presence of true greatness”.
Michael is a passionate medical researcher and in the lecture, he described his life and his academic career as well as his ongoing work on HCV and other strains of hepatitis. He also shared his research into hepatitis vaccines, which have the potential to eradicate the disease completely.
Michael’s address ended with messages of hope in which he forecast a “medical renaissance”, sharing his belief that the world’s young scientists will go on to cure neurological diseases, improve cancer therapies and prevent autoimmune diseases. He encouraged our students to embrace inter-disciplinary teams and the exponential growth of technology, especially AI, within research.
Director of Studies Aidan Sproat-Clements said “Somehow, Sir Michael managed to make his extraordinary academic journey seem accessible. And the key ingredients of success: passion, collaboration, inter-disciplinary thinking and technology were all elements that he felt our students could develop here at Alleyn’s. I’m delighted that so many students were able to hear his message and know that he will have inspired many of them with his words and actions.”
The RV Jones Science Lecture is named after alumnus Reginald V Jones. Born in 1911, Jones was the scientist credited with saving thousands of lives during WW2 by diverting Hitler’s infamous V2 rockets with a method of intercepting transmission beams and redirecting the bombers away from highly populated areas. Winston Churchill nicknamed him “the beam bender”. Jones attended Alleyn’s School from 1922-29 and was a member of Dutton’s.
Watch the full lecture below: