Reporter's Notebook: Weizmann Institute turns into Hollywood premiere

Reporters Notebook Wei

ada yonath press conference (photo credit: AP)
ada yonath press conference
(photo credit: AP)
The leap from the sterile, quiet laboratory to the messy, frantic world of the news media is difficult for anyone to take, especially for a 70-year-old scientist who has spent years trying to understand what the Weizmann Institute calls "one of the most complicated machines of the biological system." It is little wonder, therefore, that Professor Ada Yonath had to rub her eyes repeatedly as she tried to make her way past reporters and cameramen sending bright flashes her way at a hastily-arranged press conference at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, a few hours after being notified that she had won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Yonath, who through dogged determination and scientific brilliance worked her way up from a Jerusalem working class neighborhood to the pinnacle of the world scientific community, struggled for words at first - but only at first. After conceding that she "almost lost the ability to speak," Yonath regained her composure, and seized the media spotlight to share the credit with her colleagues, and offer encouragement to aspiring Israeli scientists facing budget cuts and dwindling university resources. Yonath gently chided a reporter who suggested that no quality new scientists were appearing in Israel, reminding all those present that curiosity was the fundamental key to scientific progress. As the cameras clicked and the reporters battled one another for questions, the Weizmann Institute looked more like a star-studded Hollywood premiere than one of the country's leading scientific research centers. But Yonath gave the impression that the newly found media spotlight would not throw her off balance, vowing to return to work shortly to continue to add to humanity's understanding of how cells translate genetic code to instructions for miniature cellular factories, via ribosome, which is the protein factory found in every living cell.