2401 Field Notes
2401 Field Notes
2401 Field Notes

2401 Field Notes

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  • 7/31/2019 2401 Field Notes


    Acceptance Address of DR. RICHARD FRED HECK,

    2010 Nobel Prize Laureate for Chemistry, on the occasion of his conferment of the

    DOCTOR OF SCIENCE DEGREE, HONORIS CAUSA, by De La Salle University during its 163rd

    Commencement Exercises on February 4, 2012 at the Philippine International Convention Center


    What is going on in the world? We ask our faculty members to make sense of what we need to know, understand, and reectupon. They agree to share insights and observations about their respective elds or special interests. Field Notes serves as awindow to different worlds where we all belong.

    Brother Narciso Erguiza, Jr FSC,

    President and Chancellor; Dr.

    Myrna Austria, Vice Chancellor or

    Academics; DLSU administrators

    and sta; members o the aculty;

    parents; ellow graduates;

    distinguished guests, ladies and

    gentlemen, MAGANDANG UMAGA


    With a deep sense o humility andhonor, I accept your conerment

    on me o the Doctor o Science

    degree, honoris causa, while

    I remain in constant awe at

    the thought that an American

    oreigner like me should be so

    recognized by an esteemed

    university in this part o Asia that

    has demonstrated remarkable

    evidence in pursuing excellence

    in scientic research as well as in

    social and human development.

    But I may not strictly be a oreigner

    to the Philippines as I nd my

    bearing in this country, with a

    high sense o pride, so much so

    that ater my retirement rom

    the University o Delaware where

    I sat on its aculty until 1989, I

    relished the prospect o relocating

    permanently in the Philippines. For

    all you know, I married a Filipina,

    a woman I so dearly loved, she

    o great passion and values o

    a true-blooded Filipina she was

    a treasure to my lie more thanany accolade I have ever had in

    my lietime. This woman whom I

    passionately cherished had just

    recently departed me, on to her

    sojourn to the great beyond. So

    then I beg your indulgence i, even

    at this very moment, you may

    sense a semblance o solitude

    in my countenance. While we

    were not as much blessed with

    a child, my wie was simply the

    embodiment o everything I lovedabout the Filipino. Her passing has,

    truly, let me a chasm I guess only

    time can ll.

    I wondered i my avowed ealty to this

    land might have something to do with

    my receiving this awesome honor. Yet

    your citation o me declares that you

    recognize my path-breaking research

    eorts and [my] transormational

    inuence on pharmaceutical

    development, electronics manuacture,

    innovative energy technologies, DNA

    sequencing, and disease research,

    among others. What an inclusive,humbling citation. I have had a string o

    international recognition or my various

    works in the eld o academe, but this

    one evokes a very special meaning to

    me. I never imagined that even in my

    twilight years, the country I adopted

    to be my own would care to recognize

    whatever I may have contributed to

    the human society through the natural





  • 7/31/2019 2401 Field Notes


    My origin was modest and quite ar rom auence. My

    parents were common workers in the United States and

    lacked a airly competent education. My ather workedas a salesman in a department store. My mother was a

    housewie. We lived in the suburb in Massachusetts, that

    at my early age, my ather had to move us to a brand-new

    yet tiny abode on a barren lot in Caliornia. It was there

    that my curiosity about science, particularly chemistry,began to unold. There we had an empty yard where I

    got to select and install the plants. I got concerned with

    ertilizers and sprays; and I realized I needed to know more

    about the nutrients and pigments in plants. That got me

    into chemistry, and I ollowed it through to high schooland university at UCLA where I did my PhD in Chemistry

    and in Switzerland or my postdoctoral research. I had

    never thought that that simple work o planting an empty

    yard would bloom and peak into an achievement o the

    noblest honor in the world o science. The Nobel Prize orChemistry, which I shared with two ellow scientists Ei-ichi

    Negishi and Akira Suzuki, cited my works in palladium-

    catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis which made

    possible more efcient ways o linking carbon atomstogether to build the complex molecules. The Nobel

    Committee in Sweden recognized the impact o palladium

    couplings in pharmaceutical manuacturing particularly

    in synthesizing molecules, which incidentally paved the

    way or signicant advancements in human health andmedicine, and in electronics and energy research.

    The chemical process now known as Heck Reaction

    revolutionized the manuacture and discovery o drugs,or treating arthritis, cancer, HIV, and painkiller treatments,as well as or DNA sequencing which is essential or

    disease research and orensics, specically or the Human

    genome Project. The award also recognized my discovery

    as responsible or modication o sunscreens and sun-

    protective cosmetics relying on Heck Reaction or the

    production o octyl methoxycinnamate, a compound that

    absorbs the suns ultraviolet rays and is used to reduce theappearance o scars.

    I pondered seriously on what I could possibly share to

    the De La Salle community and to this graduating class,

    apart rom what my proessional travails in the arenao scientic research may have to impart. Does being a

    Nobel Laureate necessarily make me the epitome o an

    accomplished scholar whose examples young La Sallians

    should emulate? I am araid this view might come o

    to you as rather ull o air a nd conceit. So I asked myselurther: What is it about me that should make me worthy

    to receive this honorary doctorate, and even more worthy

    to speak to this bunch o richly potential young minds? I

    should like to lit liberally rom your universitys statement

    o vision, which in part says: [T]he university harmonizesaith and lie with contemporary knowledge to nurture a

    community o distinguished and morally upright scholars

    who generate and propagate new knowledge or human

    development and social transormation [T]he institutionendeavors to orm Lasallian Achievers or God and

    Country who will lead in building a just, peaceul, stable

    and progressive Filipino nation.

    So resonant a vision which precisely encapsulates whatany scholar or individual equipped with a competitive

    package o education should aspire or. As scholars, those

    who cultivate a terrain in the sciences or in any other

    elds o interest, are not beret o virtues, or divorcedrom their duty to God and nation. The essence o beinga university, to my mind, is exactly to produce a human

    power that is imbued with both aith and values, savored

    with substantial knowledge capable o carving a powerul

    impact that can transorm a community and sustain a

    livable human habitat. The essence o being a scholar is

    not only to acquire knowledge and discover new skills

    to empower onesel, but also to be beholden to duty o,as your university vision says, building a just, peaceul,

    stable, and progressive nation. In my thinking, this is

    the ethos o postmodern education, the undamental

    and distinctive character o learning. Your citation o

    me urther writes o my having been able to make atransormational inuence in the world o science as

    well as in the industrial technology sectors. I should like

    to think that this transormational inuence does not only

    nd its way in the peripheries o scientic communities

    and technological industries that have, ostensibly,beneted rom my research breakthroughs, but that it

    also extendsmore importantlyto the world society-

    at-large, where one imagines that it is completely possible

    or someone with modest beginnings to accomplish and

    contribute as much to the lasting progress and meaninguldevelopment o ones nation and the world.

    When I was a neophyte researcher and barely exploring

    my passion in the chemical sciences, I was devoid o anyidea o what was to become o my eorts. The uture o

    my eorts was somewhat hazy as it did not occur to me

    that what I was doing was going to be anything special.

    Yet I paddled on and on, unceasingly and relentlessly.

    For such is a distinct trait o a scientist, indeatigableand undaunted to see himsel through his never-ending

    research journey, until something o empirical value is

    attained. Until the year 2010 came when the reality o

    having the worlds highest science honor dawned onme. When I was asked by one o your sta on a preludeinterview to this conerment, i I considered having

    clinched the Nobel Prize my biggest achievement,

    nonchalantly I replied that my biggest excitement

    happened the time I earned my PhD. I elt then I was

    already a ull-edged scholar, ready to take on anything.

    Admittedly, the prestige and ame o a Nobel were

    irresistible, and, somehow tempting or sel-glorication.But then I nd my meaning as a scientist in what I have

    been able to make o my country, in what I have been able

    to contribute to signicantly better the lives o peoples

    across cultures and societies. I nd my meaning in what I

    can bequeath to this world when the glory and splend