Q&A with STS Finalist Larry Williams
Lawrence Williams, PhD (Science Talent Search 1955) recently shared his thoughts on the Science Talent Search, his project, and what he is up to now as a Professor of Radiology and Imaging Physicist at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California.
What are your memories of the Science Talent Search?
I have pleasant memories of STS and the trip to Washington, D.C. including meeting people at the Naval Research Lab and visiting President Eisenhower in the White House.
Can you tell us a little bit about your project?
My STS project was the evaluation of the possibility of solid-fuel internal combustion engines. I conducted a series of tests using old coffee cans as the explosion chambers. My thought was that liquid fuels such as oil were hard to obtain for certain countries. Instead, engine users could employ coal dust, or other materials such as ground-up pieces of wood, as fuel obtained locally. This project has interesting applications today in that we (as a society) seem to be fixated on liquid fuels.
How has doing research when you were young affected your career trajectory?
I found in high school that I had a talent for research and was generally a better researcher than most people I later worked with in Nuclear Physics. I was usually more creative than a typical physicist.
Can you tell us about what you are up to now?
In 1985, while doing research on tumors in animals at City of Hope, my colleagues and I discovered the mass law. By this we mean that uptake of a drug in a tumor is a function of the tumor’s size. I have since generalized this concept to human tumors, and been involved with the formation of a company, in conjunction with venture capital investors, that developed these ideas for clinical application. I have a real emotional attachment to the concept of mass law and always look for other evidence of the law in clinical work around the world. I now work on radioactive drugs. These are used in Nuclear Medicine for imaging and therapy.
Young people should always follow their dreams. If you want to understand reality, look around and see what you can find out. And then come back and talk to the rest of us. I think science is like the business of guiding the wagon trains going west. A guide was sent ahead to find the trail for the train. That is what science is about.