Nobel Prize-winner Martin Karplus spoke at Montana Tech Wednesday in the hopes of inspiring young people to become scientists.
"Many high school and college students can get an idea science can be interesting and get excited," Karplus told The Montana Standard.
Karplus, 85, said he can relate to students who face difficulty in pursuing science. His family emigrated to the U.S. in 1938 just days after German troops crossed the border to invade Austria. Karplus is Jewish.
Although the Karplus family immigrated safely to the U.S., that did not end Karplus' struggles. As a high school student in Newton, a suburb of Boston, Karplus triumphed over adversity in a different way.
Even though a chemistry teacher discouraged Karplus in high school, he entered the Westinghouse Science Talent Search and won. As a result, he met U.S. President Harry Truman.
Karplus, along with Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel, won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2013 for their work with computer models simulating chemical reactions.
Karplus' lecture at Tech -- “Motion: Hallmark of Life -- From Marsupials to Molecules” -- was delivered before middle school and high school students from Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. The students are visiting for the Intermountain Junior Science and Humanities Society and the Tech Regional High School Science Fair this week.
Karplus, who teaches at Harvard and in Strasbourg, France, said that since he won the Nobel, people ask him all the time to speak. Frequently, he has to say no.
But when he does say yes, it's because he wants to use his notoriety as a Nobel Prize-winning chemist to get the attention of students, particularly those who are underprivileged.
"I want to help future scientists and young people to be aware of the possibilities," Karplus said.