No more emails, Nobel-winner Ramakrishnan gets down to work

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : India-born scientist Venkataraman Ramakrishnan says he is delighted he has stopped receiving masses of emails from Indians celebrating his 2009 Nobel for chemistry.

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It means he can get back to work without further distractions.

“The emails did distract me for a while, when people blocked my inbox. But then things settled down and I’ve stopped receiving so many emails,” Ramakrishnan told IANS.

The scientist had complained in the days after being named for the Nobel Prize Oct 7 that “all sorts of people” from India had been writing to him, “clogging up” his email box, which then needed up to two hours to clear up every day.

But he told IANS at a dinner hosted in honour of visiting President Pratibha Patil Monday night that he meant no offence.

“I only wanted to get back to work. I didn’t mean to sound negative at all,” he said.

Ramakrishnan, who grew up and received his initial education in Gujarat, was the only one of some 400 guests from the Indian diaspora to be named by President Patil in her address.

“We were delighted at the news of the Nobel Prize for chemistry going to Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan. He is here today, and we all congratulate him,” Patil told her audience, who broke into applause.

With characteristic humility, Ramakrishnan said his Nobel was a “much bigger deal” in India than in the institute where he now works — the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, Britain.

“In India I’m seen as the first in my field. In my institute, I’m just the 15th Nobel laureate,” he said.

Ramakrishnan, who is a US citizen, was named for the $1.42 million award along with American Thomas A. Steitz and Israeli Ada E. Yonath for their “studies of the structure and function of the ribosome”, which is found in cells and translates the DNA code into life.