Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui is the 2014 winner of the prestigious Henry G. Friesen International Prize in Health Research. After his public lecture at the University of Ottawa, he talks with IDEAS host Paul Kennedy about how a boy who remembers raising tadpoles in Hong Kong became the scientist who ultimately isolated and identified the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. Working in a lab at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Dr. Tsui determined that the disease results from a deficiency in the seventh human chromosome. The discovery was made more than a quarter century ago, prior to the widespread use of computer sequencing, and before the inauguration of the Human Genome Project.
"Research Scientists must prepare for the unexpected and be ready to discover something new everyday. This was what I always told the students in my lab; and this was what I've learned in the past forty-odd years, since I chose research as my career in the first instance.
Some say that we, as scientists, always look for work to do. That is true because we are basically curious people, who want to find out more about nature, and the rules of nature. Unfortunately, it is more and more difficult to pursue research as a career because there are competitions everywhere and funding is tight. I would always remind myself about my strengths and limitations, and, try my best to make up for my weaknesses. In addition, research has become an interdisciplinary enterprise; that means teamwork and collaboration are key to success.
There is, however, so much to explore in biological sciences. Many biological mechanisms do not seem to follow previous rules. It is simply because we have not yet discovered all the rules and I think that we are only dealing with exceptions or, at best, representative examples, most of the time. There are still plenty for us to explore, many rules for us to discover, and many exceptions for us to face. That makes the study of biology interesting and rewarding."
– Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui