Sir Paul Nurse won the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 2001 for his work on the genes that control cell division. Here, Sir Paul explains some of the key ideas in biology, such as cells, genes and evolution.

In 2006, Sir Paul toured New Zealand as part of a speaking tour organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand in conjunction with the Royal Society (London). He spoke in various locations through New Zealand

During his lecture, he spoke about The Five Great Ideas of Biology and in the last lecture students were able to ask questions.

See below for a summary of the main points from his lecture.

Cells are the basic building blocks of life. It is hard for us now to imagine scientists not knowing about cells, but until microscopes were developed, they couldn’t be seen, let alone described or observed. Find out more in the article, Biology idea 1: The cell.

Why do offspring resemble their parents? The discovery of the molecule that is passed from a parent to their offspring was a key development in biology. Find out more in the article, Biology idea 2: The gene.

Evolution is the process of change in an organism that occurs over a long period of time. Find out more in the article, Biology idea 3: Evolution.

Organisms carry out a complex set of chemical reactions in order to function. Find out more in the article, Biology idea 4: Life is chemistry.

DNA has a famous and distinct structure that obeys all the laws of chemistry. This structure gives DNA the ability to store complex information and pass it on to future generations. Find out more in the article, Biology idea 5: Biological organisation.

After Sir Paul Nurse’s lecture on The Five Great Ideas of Biology, the audience were invited to ask questions. Students from Wellington Girls’ High School made the most of this opportunity.

Different research strategies

Sir Paul Nurse explains that hypothesis-driven research is just one of the many different ways to approach scientific research.

Human Genome Project

The Human Genome Project sequenced all of the genes a person has (about 35,000). This project was completed in 2001. One student asks Sir Paul, “How has the Human Genome Project changed scientific research?”

Being a scientist

Sir Paul Nurse, a Nobel Prize winner in 2001 for his work on the genes that control cell division, explains how he first got interested in science.


Published 16 November 2007