The Beginner's Guide To Winning The Nobel Prize, by Peter Doherty

Intriguing yet uneasy amalgam into 'the greatest of all human adventures'
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The Independent Culture

Nobel prize-winners may not be as instantly recognisable as pop stars, but his exposure to the media spotlight propelled Doherty into a "new and different world of public advocacy for science". His book is part of that continuing mission. The Australian immunologist uses episodes from his life "to probe the extraordinary story of Nobel-level science and what shapes and feeds it".

Doherty says that "day to day, the scientific life is exciting and fulfilling". Indeed, his inspiring account of laboratory science should be recommended reading for anyone considering a career in research. It contains some pithy advice for scientists aiming for those Olympian laurels: "Avoid prestigious administrative roles"; "don't be a lone wolf"; "think outside the box"; and "have fun, behave like a winner". But science is not just about winning prizes, as Doherty is the first to admit.

At the core of the book is his fascinating account of his own specialism - immunology - including the breakthrough he and Rolf Zinkernagel made in the 1970s, for which they later shared the Nobel. For three years they became "obsessed" with the cellular immune response to lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, in particular the process by which T cells seek and destroy invading virus-infected cells. Doherty acknowledges that although it was the most intense and creative period of their lives, it was also "very hard" on their wives, "juggling jobs of their own, caring for small children and managing two insane spouses".

Doherty admits to being "hooked" on discovery. His enthusiasm is contagious and his idealism laudable. But as a book this is a curate's egg, an uneasy amalgam of memoir, essay, scientific history and forthright opinion on everything from genetic engineering to religious fundamentalism. Nevertheless, Doherty does offer an intriguing insight into "the greatest of all human adventures" - science - and the hard graft, genius and even good fortune needed to win a Nobel Prize.