Take a break from Facebook and visit museums and other cultural institutions, learn from your failures and pursue your passions.
This was the special advice that the world-famous American astrophysicist Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson gave to 50 lucky ASPIRE UNSW students in an exclusive meeting with him. He spoke about his passion for his work and the challenges he has experienced throughout his career, during his recent Australian tour, as part of UNSW Science’s partnership with Think Inc.
Dr Tyson said his enthusiasm for astronomy first hit him at age nine on his first visit to the local planetarium – the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where he now serves as Director. “I realised: Oh my gosh, I can’t get enough of this,” he recalled.
The renowned science communicator urged the students to do as he did, and “stop spending time doing nothing” and get out to see the great cultural institutions Sydney has so they can expose themselves to the options they have in life for a wide range of careers.
Dr Tyson had another strong message: you don’t need to be brilliant to succeed. “The most successful people that ever were failed more times than you know. What matters is your perseverance in the face of challenges, in the face of failure,” he said.
He also recounted the time when he met the late Dr Carl Sagan and how much he appreciated the time that the renowned American astronomer gave to him as a 17 year old. Since that meeting, Dr Tyson has made a commitment to himself to give his as much of his time as possible time to students, just as Sagan did for him.
He also hinted that he would like to step away from the public eye to focus his energy on research. However, he acknowledged that when he does appear in public, he is a servant of his audience’s “cosmic curiosity”. To not fulfil their interest in science he would be irresponsible, he said.
“There’s a quote I want on my tombstone from Horace Mann – a great educator from a century ago,” he said: “Be ashamed to die until you scored some victory for humanity.”