Charpentier: Be open to new perspectives

Renowned molecular biologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science, honoris causa (DSc) at the Wednesday afternoon session of Western’s 310th Convocation.

Best known for her role in deciphering the molecular mechanisms of the bacterial CRISPR-Cas9 immune system and repurposing it into a tool for genome editing, Charpentier spoke to graduates from the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Social Science and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, stressing the importance of mobility in knowledge exchange and scientific progress.

“International mobility has been a crucial aspect of my career and impacted the way I conducted my research over the years. It is an integral part of modern science. Consider what mobility is and why every academic that is mobile considers it one of the most important aspets of their career,” Charpentier said.

While travel is not as difficult today, international mobility is important for innovation, fostering critical thinking and exchange of ideas. It is important to take risks, Charpentier added, and challenges that one might face as a result of a risk will encourage reflection, open-mindedness and persistence.

“Mobility for me was a process of self-refinement,” she said, adding wherever graduates go, they must stay true to themselves and avoid assimilation while remaining open to new environments and new ideas.

“Mobility goes beyond benefits to the individual; exchanges bring fresh ideas, new perspectives and fresh ways of approaching problems. The interactions show us, even with our differences, the reasons for us to work together far outweigh those that might drive us apart.”

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