ANKARA (AA) - Professor Aziz Sancar, the Turkish-American academic who won last year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry, urged Turkish university students to study hard in order to compete with American and European scientists.
Sancar, guest of honor at a conference at Ankara’s Bilkent University, made the remarks on Wednesday in an address on the Mechanistic Basis of DNA Repair to around 1,000 students from various universities around Turkey.
Originally from the southeastern Mardin province, Sancar was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work in mapping cells that repaired ultraviolet damage to DNA.
During his speech, he told about hearing the news he had won the prestigious Nobel. "My wife picked up the phone and told me the person on the line said they were calling from Stockholm and that it is very important. So I took the phone and they told me I won the prize. I had been sleeping, it was 5 a.m. I was pretty incoherent. But I thanked them and said, 'It’s an incredible honor'."
He said he is known as a scientist who rarely attends scientists' meetings or conferences. "However, when they asked me if I would go to Stockholm and get my prize, I said I cannot be indifferent to this."
He added, "Winning a Nobel Prize is good, but the path to success is even better."
Sancar said one of his biggest stresses was preparing to address the Nobel Prize Committee.
"Two days before the prize-giving ceremony, we had to give a lecture to the committee. For two months, I prepared for my lecture. Thank God I passed that test, feeling the responsibility of the Turkish nation supporting me," he said.
Sancar also joked about his youth, saying, "I saw during my visits that in school there are science laboratories in elementary schools. When teachers in laboratories asked me what I was doing when I was a teenager, I told them I was chasing after a football".
Saying he is often asked what he did with the $350,000 Nobel Prize money, he said he would "donate the money to support science".
"I used some of the money to buy a house in the United States, which my wife and I call 'California Turkish House'," Sancar said. "I will use the house to support Turkish students and academics in their science projects.
Sancar also said he had three extra copies made of his Nobel Prize medal: one for the library of the University of North Carolina in the U.S., where he works, one for Artuklu University in Turkey's southeastern province of Mardin, and one for Istanbul University’s Medical School.
"The original medal will hopefully be placed in Anitkabir [Ataturk’s mausoleum] tomorrow," Sancar said. "We all have the utmost respect for Mustafa Kemal Ataturk".
During his visit to Ankara, Sancar visited Ankara University, Hacettepe University, and TOBB University as well, giving speeches to students there also.
During the conference, Bilkent University Science Faculty Dean Tayfun Özcelik, Turkish Academy of Sciences Chairman Ahmet Cevat Acar, and Bilkent Rector Abdullah Atalar also gave speeches congratulating Sancar.
There were also two mini-concerts with performances by Bilkent University students and professional quartets.
On Thursday Sancar will give his Nobel medal and certificate to the museum at Ataturk’s mausoleum, Anitkabir, to be displayed on Turkey’s May 19 Youth and Sports Day, when the country celebrates the beginning of its War of Independence.
Sancar is the second Turk to win a Nobel Prize, following writer Orhan Pamuk, who was awarded the accolade for literature in 2006.