An Exhibit of Diversity, Community, Humanity and Environment
Nova Starling Interviews Mario Molina
Were there event(s) and/or individual(s) that triggered the decision to go into your field? Were you sure it was the right decision?
When I enrolled in the Ph.D. program in physical chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, I expanded my knowledge of physics and mathematics as well as physical chemistry, and joined a research group led by Professor George Pimentel. He became a great influence on my development as a scientist.
The Berkeley campus of the late '60s and early '70s was still reeling from the political events of the preceding years, and for the first time, I began to consider the social implications of scientific research. I moved from pure science into applied science to solve human problems. I wanted to do math and see it applied. There were problems of the stratosphere. Natural levels of ozone were changing.
It became clear that human behavior had the potential to modify and improve the environment.
What is the passion about in your work?
I had a desire to advance understanding of how nature works. I wanted to find environmental solutions to improve the standard of living and be in harmony with nature.
Have there been challenges or adversities?
The challanges are to stick to it, understand and state the problem and to work with society to implement change. It is difficult to change if industry is opposed. We need the right people, then scientific progress can change society.
Has your work changed your life? What have you learned personally along the way?
My work changed my life from just being curious to seeing science as a collective effort. By communicating with the public and political institutions and by working with other scientist, I got a more integrated perspective while looking for solutions for societal problems.
Have there been associations or commraderie that have helped along the way?
I have many friends in the scientific community, frienships even over a great distance and many are decision makers in the government.
What personality and/or physical traits were most helpful for success in your career?
First of all, you need curiosity. You want to find out how things work. You also need creativity - to want to find out new things, the things that are not discovered yet in nature yet. You have to be focused, have patience and perseverance, and you need to work hard. But perhaps most importantly, you have to enjoy what you do. Then you will do it very well.
What advice would you give a person interested in pursuing a career in science?
First would be to read about science and scientists. If something sparks your curiosity, keep with it. It will get more interesting. Find friends who share your interests. Keep an open mind.