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 »  Home  »  Science  »  Igor Stagljar distinguished Croatian molecular biologist in Toronto
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Igor Stagljar distinguished Croatian molecular biologist in Toronto
By Marko Puljić | Published  07/22/2009 | Science , People , Education | Unrated
Igor Štagljar leading his team of young scientists in Toronto, part 2


Professor Igor Štagljar, University of Toronto. Photo by Petar Strmečki, Croatia Airlines.

 
P. Kakve emocije u Vama pobuđuju Vaša otkrića?

O. Otkako sam se preselio u Toronto, često
kontaktiram s pacijentima oboljelima od cistične
fibroze, kao i njihovim obiteljima. Moram
priznati da ti susreti u meni izazivaju dvojake
osjećaje: s jedne me strane uvijek uvelike rastuže,
jer ispred sebe vidite bolesnu djecu koja se svakim danom bude u pet sati ujutro da bi provela gotovo šest sati dnevno na respiratorima što im omogućuju da prežive. Njihovi roditelji u vama vide veliku nadu, slamku spasa, jer nadaju se da ćete im vi i vaš znanstveni tim moći pomoći. Eto, baš to je razlog što sam s druge strane i sretan, jer vidim da naša istraživanja idu u dobrom smjeru i daju nam nadu da će jednog dana ista djeca imati koliko-toliko normalan život, koji zacijelo zaslužuju. Nema ljepšeg osjećaja od onoga kad vidite da se vaša znanstvena vizija i trud cijelog laboratorija pretvara u stvarnost koja će vrlo vjerojatno donijeti dobrobit čovječanstvu.

P. Što je imalo odlučujuću ulogu u Vašim uspjesima?

O. Odlučujuću ulogu za uspjeh u mojoj znanstvenoj
karijeri imali su moji roditelji, koji su mi uvijek bili velika podrška u životu, kao i to što sam se školovao na najboljim svjetskim sveučilištima. Dakako, zato su zaslužni i moji mentori, koji su me tijekom studija i specijalizacije motivirali da počnem obožavati znanost te da o znanosti razmišljam otvoreno, ali u prvom redu kritično i racionalno. Nadalje, dosad sam za svoj znanstveni tim uvijek odabirao izrazito nadarene, marljive i inteligentne suradnike, koji su uvelike zaslužni za naš uspjeh. želio bih naglasiti da danas uspjeh u znanosti znači uspjeh tima, nikako pojedinaca, jer da biste danas publicirali jedan rad u renomiranome znanstvenom časopisu, morate imati izrazito jak znanstveni tim u kojemu sve funkcionira kao u najboljemu švicarskom satu.

P. Možemo li danas govoriti o znanstvenoj sreći u smislu u kojemu se ona tumačila u vrijeme, recimo, otkrića penicilina, tj. kad je znanstvenik istraživao 10, 20, 30 godina i onda, kao najedanput, slučajno, nešto otkrio?

O. Mislim da sreća ima određenu ulogu za uspjeh u životu, no, budimo realni, za uspjeh u znanosti ipak morate biti radoholik, inteligentni, morate biti izvrstan menadžer, koji će znati prodati projekt znanstvenim fondacijama i časopisima, i, na kraju, morate biti vrlo hrabri i ustrajni, no morate se i znati nositi s porazima. Imate li sve te spomenute osobine, uvjeren sam da ćete gotovo uvijek moći isprovocirati vašu sreću koja će vas pratiti ne samo u znanosti, nego i u životu općenito...

P. Ima li u znanosti talenata ili je tu riječ samo o inteligenciji, egzaktnosti, educiranosti, upornosti, beskrajnoj ljubavi...?

O. Moje mi dosadašnje iskustvo govori da najveći znanstveni talenti nikako nisu tzv. štreberski ili ziheraški tipovi. Zašto? Pa upravo zato što neki štreber nikad neće biti spreman riskirati i upustiti se u projekt za koji su izgledi da uspije vrlo mali. A upravo takva, manje očita znanstvena otkrića rezultiraju epohalnim otkrićima koja onda budu publicirana u najboljim znanstvenim časopisima. Dakle, morate biti, dakako, skloni riziku, uporni, načitni, educiran i privrženi znanosti, ali, također, i tvrdoglavi (u pozitivnom smislu), morate imati viziju koja je unikatna i s kojom ćete uspjeti zavesti cijeli znanstveni svijet.

P. Za engleskog književnika, slikara i grafičara Williama Blakea, nadahnuće je:
Vidjeti svijet u zrnu pijeska,
i nebo u divljem cvijetu,
nositi beskraj na dlanu,
i vječnost u trenutku!
I znanstvenik, nedvojbeno, ima zanosa, ali što je za nj nadahnuće?

O. Ha ha, mislim da biste na ovo pitanje dobili potpuno različite odgovore od različitih  znanstvenika. Nedvojbeno je da mi znanstvenici poimamo znanost kao veliku strast koja nas
ispunjava slično kao i najstrastvenija ljubav. Za mene osobno nadahnuće u znanosti znači traženje nečega što još nitko nije pronašao, traženje nove tehnologije ili shvaćanje važnoga staničnog procesa koji će rezultirati objavom izvrsnog rada te, dao Bog, poboljšanjem kvalitete ljudskih života na potpuno nov i inovativan način, nešto za što će ljudi reći hej, pa ovo je stvarno cool!.

P. Biblijsko gledanje na svijet zapravo je jezgrovita slika na kojoj se nadmeću Božja moć i ljudska zloća. Toga, u konkretnom značenju dobra i zla, danas ima gotovo do nepodnošljivosti, odnosno, sve nas više iznenađuje dobro, a loše situacije, loša
raspoloženja... postaju naša stanja, stvarnost. Kako Vi, kao znanstvenik, percipirate svijet i ljudsku sudbinu?

O. Po prirodi sam prilično emotivan, ali veoma
pozitivna osoba. Kao i mnogi drugi ljudi, nekoliko sam se puta veoma razočarao u životu, no uvijek pokušavam racionalizirati i zaboraviti te loše situacije i misliti na ono što me raduje u životu, a to su moja djeca, moje slobodne aktivnosti, sport i znanost. Mislim da bi naš planet Zemlja bio mnogo bolje mjesto za život kad bi ljudi mislili pozitivno, kad ne bi bilo zavisti, kad bi svi imali pravo na edukaciju i kad razlika između siromašnih i bogatih ne bi bila takva kakva je danas.

P. Kako ste posložili svoje životne prioritete?

O. Najvažniji su mi prioritet moje djevojčice Lara
(12) i Leja (9). želim im omogućiti vrhunsku
edukaciju, usaditi im pozitivan ali i kritičan stav
prema životu te da nauče koristiti se svojim
potencijalima i objektivnim mogućnostima.
Dakako, i dalje želim da moj znanstveni tim
maksimalnim trudom i zalaganjem postigne što zapaženije rezultate. No unatoč tomu što katkad radim i po 14 sati na dan, veoma mi je važno da mogu uživati u drugim stvarima u životu, koje me usrećuju. Kad to kažem, onda prije svega mislim na slušanje glazbe, obožavam contemporary jazz, sviranje na gitari i svakodnevno bavljenje športom, koje me najviše opušta. Prilikom bavljenja športom
dosad su mi uvijek padale na um najzanimljivije
znanstvene ideje.

P. Kao rođeni Zagrepčanin, od 22. godine živite u inozemstvu. Radili ste na glasovitom Švicarskome nacionalnome tehnološkom institutu (ETH), poznatome i po tome što je dao 23 nobelovca, među kojima su bili i hrvatski znanstvenici, nobelovci Lavoslav Ruzička i Vladimir Prelog, radili ste na University of Washington u Seattleu, sada
u Torontu, dakle u vrhunskim znanstvenim sredinama. Jeste li se kao mlad čovjek, i stranac, morali naprezati dva-tri puta više od ostalih kolega da biste se mogli dokazati i, što još više treba naglasiti - iskoračiti?

O. Moj odgovor definitivno je potvrdan. No da budem iskren, nisam nikad previše razmišljao o tome jesam li kao stranac bolji od ostalih, pogotovo ne u SAD-u i ovdje u Kanadi, jer to su zemlje u kojima ima vrlo malo domorodaca i u kojima su emigranti svakako dobro došli te zbog toga imaju zapažene uloge u svim strukturama
njihova društva. Moj je životni moto uvijek bio da pokušam dati svoj maksimum i da, prije svega, na otvoren, pošten i nearogantan način ostvarim svoje ciljeve. Uz malo sreće o kojoj smo govorili, uz mnogo odricanja i spremnosti na rizik te s timom izvrsnih i pouzdanih suradnika, uspjeh će gotovo uvijek doći po sebi.

Anđelka Mustapić
Croatia Airlines
putni časopis, proljetni broj za 2009., str. 6-12

 
Q. What emotions do your discoveries evoke for you personally?

A. Since I have moved to Toronto I have been in touch with cystic fibrosis patients and their families. I have to admit that these encounters evoke conflicting feelings: on the one hand, it always saddens me to see sick children who have to wake up at five in the morning every day to undergo almost six hours of respiratory treatment a day in order to survive. Their parents see you as their great hope, their last straw, hoping that you and your team will be able to help. But this, on the other hand, makes me feel glad, because I can see that our research has a good perspective, giving us hope that these children will someday be able to lead a more or less normal life, which they certainly deserve. It is the most beautiful feeling in the world to see your scientific vision, the effort you and your lab have invested, is turning into reality which will most probably be beneficial to mankind.

Q. What has played a crucial role in your success?

A. My parents were crucial in the success of my
scientific career, they have always been greatly
supportive, and also there was the fact that I
attended the best universities in the world. Of
course, I owe a lot to my mentors, who motivated
me during my studies and specialization to adore science and to embrace it with an open mind but, most of all, in a critical and rational manner. Furthermore, I have always chosen extremely talented, hardworking and intelligent associates for my scientific team and they have greatly contributed to our success. I would like to stress that success in science today always means the success of the team, never the individual, because in order to publish a paper in a renowned scientific magazine today you have to have an extremely strong team functioning in synch like the best of Swiss watches.

Q. Can we, in our day and age, speak of scientific luck in the sense in which it was seen, for example, in the times when penicillin was discovered, when a scientist would search for 10, 20, 30 years and  then suddenly, as if by coincidence, discover something?

A. I think luck does play a certain part in one's
success in life but, let's face it, in order to succeed in science you primarily have to be a workaholic, intelligent, an excellent manager who knows how to sell a project to scientific foundations and magazines and, finally, you have to be very brave and persistent but you also must know how to handle defeat. If you have all these qualities, I am certain that you will almost always be able to provoke your luck, which will then accompany you not only in science but in life in general...

Q. Does science require talent or is it just about intelligence, accuracy, education, persistence, immense love for the work...?

A. From my own experience I can say that the
greatest talents in science are never the socalled
geeky or unadventurous types. Why is this so? It is because a geek would never be prepared to take a risk and embark on a project that is unlikely to succeed. But it is these, less obvious, scientific research that result in revolutionary discoveries that get published in the best scientific magazines. So
you have to, of course, be prepared to take a risk, be persistent, well-read, educated and dedicated to science, but you also have to be stubborn (in the positive sense of the word), you have to have a vision that is unique and that will manage to seduce the entire scientific community.

Q. For the English poet, painter and printmaker
William Blake, inspiration is:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Scientists are undoubtedly passionate, but what do they see as their inspiration?

A. Ha, ha! I think different scientists would give
you completely different answers to this question.
We scientists definitely see science as a great passion that fulfils us just like the most passionate love. For me, inspiration in science means to search for something no one else has ever found, search for a new technology or the understanding of an important cellular process that will result in the publication of an excellent paper and, with God's help, in the improvement of the quality of human life
in a new and innovative way, something that people will be able to see and say: Hey, this is really cool!

Q. The Biblical vision of the world is in fact an image of competing divine power and human wickedness, in a nutshell. Today we witness this, in the form of good and evil, practically more than we can take, that is, we frequently find ourselves surprised by the good whereas the bad situations, bad feelings... have become our reality. How do you, as a scientist, see the world and the fate of humankind?

A. I usually respond to things pretty emotionally,
but I am a very positive person. Like many others, I have had several grave disappointments in my life but I always try to rationalize and forget the bad situations and think about what makes me happy, my children, my hobbies, sports and science. I think our planet Earth would be a much better place to live in if people were more positive, if there was no envy, if everyone had the right to education and if there was not such a great gap between the rich and the poor.

Q. What are your priorities in life?

A. My major priorities are my daughters Lara (12)
and Leja (9). I want to provide them with top
education, endow them with a positive but critical
attitude towards life and teach them how to
use their potential and objective possibilities. Of
course, I still want my scientific team to yield the best results possible through maximum engagement and dedication. But, in spite of the fact that I sometimes work 14 hours a day, I find it very important to enjoy other things in life that make me happy. By this I primarily mean listening to music, I love contemporary jazz, playing the guitar and my daily sports activities, which I find the most relaxing. The most interesting scientific ideas that I have had have occurred to me while doing sports.

Q. You were born in Zagreb and have been
living abroad for 22 years now. You worked at the renowned Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), famous for having given the world 23 Nobel Prize winners, including Croatian scientists Lavoslav Ružička and Vladimir Prelog, you worked at the University of Washington in Seattle, now you work in Toronto, all cutting edge scientific
environments. As a young man and a foreigner, did you have to work twice as hard than your colleagues in order to prove yourself and, even more importantly - to set yourself apart?

A. My answer is definitely yes. But to be honest, I have never given too much thought to whether I, as a foreigner, was any better than the others, especially not in the USA and here in Canada. These are the countries with very few homegrown people, immigrants are definitely welcome, which is why they have important roles in all segments of  their societies. My motto has always been to try to give my best and, most of all, to try to realize my goals in an open, honest and modest way. With a little luck, as we already discussed, with a lot of sacrifice and risk taking and with a team of  excellent and reliable associates, success will almost always inevitably ensue.

Anđelka Mustapić
Croatia Airlines
in-flight magazine, Spring 2009, pp. 6-12


 
Igor Stagljar, Ph.D.
Professor
Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (CCBR) Faculty of Medicine
Department of Biochemistry & Department of Molecular Genetics
University of Toronto
160 College Street, Room 1204
Toronto ON
Canada, M5S 3E1

Tel (office): +1 416 946 78 28
Tel (lab): +1 416 978 83 10
Fax: +1 416 978 82 87
Email: igor.stagljar@utoronto.ca
URL: http://biochemistry.utoronto.ca/stagljar/index.html






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