The Dream of Becoming a Scientist

Yoshinori Ohsumi is a Japanese cell biologist known for his work on uncovering the critical physiological activities of autophagy. Also, he is known for being the Nobel prize winner of “Ultrastructural Analysis of the Autophagic Process in Yeast: Detection of Autophagosomes and Their Characterization.” I believe that his life story had a huge contribution to his success and I think that his story and success teach the future generations to find a job that they truly enjoy in order to succeed in their field.

Ohsumi was born in Japan in 1945 and was constantly ill during his childhood. His illness did not stop him from dreaming to become a scientist. As he grew up, he was interested in astronomy and insect collecting. At school, he was very interested in chemistry and he joined the chemistry club in high school. Since he loved watching chemical reactions, he thought he would pursue a degree in chemistry when he attended college. At the University of Tokyo, his chemistry classes did not interest him, which made him depressed. Then, he explored the field of molecular biology and quickly became interested in reading more about it. He graduated from his university with a degree in molecular biology and he soon joined Dr. Kazutomo Imahori’s lab, which was one of the few molecular biology labs in Japan at the time. The main focus of the lab was studying interactions between proteins and nucleic acids. Even though Ohsumi enjoyed studying the role of ribosome subunits in protein synthesis, he did not produce any particularly interesting results. He still enjoyed exploring the field and decided to move to Kyoto University and joined Dr. Maeda’s lab. He studied colicin E2 and enjoyed learning about its ability to pass directly through bacterial cells and inhibit protein synthesis. His work at these two labs allowed him to attend Rockefeller University in NYC as a postdoctoral fellow and then go back to the University of Tokyo to take a position as a research associate. First, he was appointed as a lecturer, then he was promoted to associate professor. After that, he started joining several scientific research organizations and he received over fifteen awards from 2005 to 2016 for his work and research results. In other words, his failure in pursuing a degree in chemistry did not stop him from finding another field that interested him and becoming a successful scientist. His life story taught me how successful scientists also have gone through challenging times but they succeeded in the end because they never gave up on finding their dream field.