“Forget about competition and the fight for money, and look for cooperation”
Citation Laureate 2021 and award-winning scientist Jean-Pierre Changeux shares advice for budding researchers
What does it take to be a researcher of Nobel class? Citation Laureate for 2021 Jean-Pierre Changeux shares his story about finding his calling and offers advice for researchers who are new to the scene.
Every year Clarivate recognizes a handful of world-class researchers as Citation Laureates™. This tribute celebrates the scientific and research elite whose contributions to science have been transformative, even revolutionary, as attested by their exceptionally high citation record within the Web of Science™.
In this interview, Dr. Jean-Pierre Changeux, one of our Citation Laureates for 2021 in Physiology or Medicine, shares his life experience and advice. His recognition as a Citation Laureate is based on contributions to our understanding of neuroreceptors and especially the identification of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor and its allosteric properties.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up in research
I never “ended up” in research since from the start, in my teens, I was fascinated by nature and living organisms. I collected flies and was in contact already with the Museum of Natural History in Paris. In high school, I was strongly encouraged by my teacher to follow up in scientific research through the Ecole Normale Supérieure, until I met Jacques Monod at the Pasteur Institute and did my PhD with him.
How does it feel to be a Citation Laureate?
Of course, I feel happy and honored, even though I had not been so concerned by my citation index though my scientific life. It was a great surprise for me to be elected to such a great distinction. My main concern has always been to progress in my research in molecular biology, neuroscience and chemistry of higher brain functions. I am really pleased that these achievements – which I was able to collect together with my team – are recognized independently by Clarivate objective measurements.
“Good or bad, my principal motivation has always been an irresistible passion for ideas.”
What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
I had successes and failures but constantly moved ahead in my theoretical and experimental work, frequently jumping from one discipline to another. It happened that sometimes I was perhaps carrying too many projects simultaneously and could not reach success for all of them. I should have simplified my life! But good or bad, my principal motivation has always been an irresistible passion for ideas.
“My main suggestion to a young researcher would be: do not listen to scientific gossip and social media or even distinguished advice, but follow your taste. Have an opinion or, even better, an educated theory about your research.”
What qualities do you need to become a successful researcher?
The French poet Francis Ponge wrote, “You must first decide in favor of your own mind and taste.” My main suggestion to a young researcher would be: do not listen to scientific gossip and social media or even distinguished advice, but follow your taste. Have an opinion or, even better, an educated theory about your research. The worst theory is to have no theory.
Have a constant creative inner dialogue between abstract and empirical research. Forget about competition and the fight for money, and look for cooperation. Establish creative links between disciplines and those who practice them. Favor friendship and better work together. As Michel Foucault said, “Make your life a work of art”!
To learn more about this year’s list and view our Hall of Citation Laureates, please visit: https://clarivate.com/citation-laureates