Obama victory won't hit science: Nobel laureate

Obama victory won't hit science: Nobel laureate

While the scientific community in the United States hailed Obama’s re-election as the good news that would have saved research from suffering sharp funding cuts, a Nobel laureate visiting Bangalore has said that presidential elections barely have an impact on science in the United States.

“My father voted for Republicans since he was a doctor as he feared the Democrats would socialize medicine…   But that didn’t happen,” said Prof Douglas Osheroff, the physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1996 for his pathbreaking findings of superfluidity in helium-3 along with his colleagues David Lee and Robert Richardson, when Deccan Herald sought his reaction to Wednesday’s win for Obama.

Widespread impact

“We (scientific community) tended to vote for the Democrats, though we’re not members of that party,” Osheroff, who was in Bangalore to speak at  technology company Honeywell and at Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), said, maintaining that presidential votes have little widespread impact on scientific research in American institutions.

He also said that if Mitt Romney were elected, it would still have been difficult “for a first term President” to enforce funding cuts on scientific institutions.

Crucial implications

He conceded that actions such as reinforcement of the ban on government funded embryonic stem cell research on, which President George Bush had imposed during his term and Obama subsequently revoked, could have imposed advancement in researches with crucial implications on world population. Stephen Chu, who is Osheroff’s friend and a colleague at Stanford University, was appointed the Energy Secretary by the first Obama administration.

The Nobel laureate, currently with Stanford University and was deeply influenced by his teacher and another Nobel winner Richard Feynman, believes in “stimulating” students about science and research, which is part of the reason for his visits to India and other developing countries.

“I joined Cornell for Graduate study (1967) and started to work on the behaviour of liquid helium-3 (isotope), which made me appreciate nature from a totally different plain I feel it’s important to stimulate young minds towards scientific phenomena,” the scientist explained.

After delivering his lecture at Honeywell on Wednesday, Prof Osheroff travels to Manipal on Friday to speak to the students there.

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