While animals may kill each other for food, humans are the only creatures to do so out of cruelty, Nobel laureate Aaron Ciechanover told an assembly of Cambodians earlier this month.
Ciechanover, who won the Noble Prize for chemistry in 2004, reminded 400 participants at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia that greed could drive human cruelty, something not found in other parts of the natural world.
Ciechanover was speaking as part of an Asean “Bridges” program organized by the International Peace Foundation, which is based in Vienna, Austria.
Ciechanover’s Nobel Prize came from the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation, a mechanism by which the cells of most living organisms cull unwanted proteins. He shared the prize with Avram Hershko and Irwin Rose and is seeking the cure for cancer.
Kem Oeun, deputy director-general for the Ministry of Education, who participated in the discussion, said the talk was a reminder that people must unite to build peace, but they must first know themselves.
“We are crueler than such animals as tigers, which kill other animals for food,” he said. “We kill each other for self gain.”
Ciechanover is a distinguished research professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, where he was born. He received his doctorate in medicine in 1981 from the institute.
Om Romny, directory of the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, told VOA Khmer the institute was honored to have the laureate, whose talk was a rare opportunity for professors, scientists, students and other participants.
“It is crucial that we exchange our knowledge,” he said. “Particularly, we have learned from him because he is a Nobel laureate. So, we’ve learned from him about the way to conduct research, starting from where to where. That’s what we got from him.”
Someth Paradis, a professor at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, told VOA Khmer that the lecture was useful for students, professors, and researchers who participated.
“Our students were really interested in Ciechanover’s lecture, which was very encouraging and a driving force for our students,” he said. “I observed that they had pleasant facial expressions while listening to his lecture. They looked more determined in their studies and future research. I think our students want to attach themselves to Ciechanover’s research and wish to win the Nobel Prize, as he did.”
Phat Chan Vorleak, a senior studying food chemistry at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, said Ciechanover was a role model for her.
“His words encourage me as a student,” she said. “I feel we can do anything when we have a strong will, desire and determination. What I was interested in most is that he is from a small country, and he has tried very hard to study, and was able to continue his studies in the US, but he never gave up on his country. He brought what he studied back to help develop his country.”