Jack Strominger, the Higgins Research Professor of Biochemistry in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard, will be retiring as an actve research professor in July 2020. He is 94. Interesting to see that of 170 emeriti professors at Harvard, 25 are in their 90s.
Strominger had an illustrious career and seminal achievements to his credit in his long tenure at Harvard and still wants to pursue science and work on hard problems.
This is what he says:
“Some people like to play chess; some people like to play bingo; and some like to watch TV; they’re all games. Science is a more complicated game. You have to pull information from various sources. That’s the game I like to play.”
Over his long career, Strominger has authored nearly 1,000 papers and earned about 30 prestigious awards, including many honorary degrees. But he’s especially proud of what he calls his “legacy”: more than 200 students who have become prominent scientists, among them 12 Harvard professors, 12 National Academy of Sciences members, and two Nobel laureates.
“He was working on bacterial cell walls when I joined his lab and was just starting to work on the immune system,” said Springer. “He has always been driven to want to make discoveries, to do important things, and he urged me to work on important scientific problems. But he was also a real mensch, always interested in my personal life.”
Strominger’s scientific excitement has been a constant in his life, said his son, Andrew Strominger, the Gwill E. York Professor of Physics. “I remember as a kid how happy and excited he was about his work,” he said. “When it comes to his work, he peps up and gets excited even now.”
“I have never worked alone,” said Strominger. “I’ve always had good people to work with since the beginning. Looking at the lists of those scientists who worked in my lab cheers me up.”
Asked what advice he has for young scientists, Strominger highlighted the importance of choosing a problem to solve. “Science is a great thing to do,” he said. “Think carefully about what you want to work on, get advice, and work hard. It’s fun, much better than chess.”