Professor Richard Axel of Columbia University

Science is constantly evolving. Researchers are constantly working around the clock to find cures to the most indeterminable of diseases. Long hours in the lab are grueling but it almost always seems worth it when one is aware that it can help improve the quality of someone’s life. At Columbia, I have had the chance to meet and work with some of the most incredible scientists in our time. However, the first person that I am always reminded of is Professor Richard Axel. Dr. Axel is aloof yet incredibly concentrated. He often takes long deep pauses, soaking in all that has been said and gaining awareness of his surroundings to the sharpest degree. After such a pause, he inhales slightly to articulate what is on his mind. It is at this moment when fear sets in. Will he ridicule or even mock an idea? Will he actually like it? Will he approve of it and recommend going forth with it? These were thoughts than ran across through my mind in these moments. With a 6’ 4” frame, Dr. Axel is a wiry and lanky figure. This often does not help with the intimidation factor. While he is 67 years old as of now, he has yet to retire and hosts a lab of well over 50 people. He comes in every morning sharp at 8 AM, ready to start the day with a hot mug of coffee in hand. Papers are piled on his desk, awaiting his long tapered fingers and fountain pen in hand. Without a doubt, Dr. Axel is the most brilliant scientist I have met at Columbia and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to do so.

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