A Nobel Prize winner and former Australian of the Year discussed advances in medicine and the life of a scientist at the 2018 Barry Jones Oration last week at the Refectory at Werribee Park.

Laureate Professor Peter Doherty AC had the audience in stitches with his engaging speech, which touched on breakthroughs made in molecular medicine and its result in people living longer and healthier lives, the trials and tribulations of a researcher and the need to invest in further research into alzheimer’s and dementia.

Professor Doherty graduated from the University of Queensland in veterinary science and became a veterinary officer. He moved to Scotland and earned a PhD from the University of Edinburgh medical school.

In 1996, he shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine with Swiss colleague Rolf Zinkernagel for their discovery of how the immune system recognises virus-infected cells. He was Australian of the Year in 1997 and has since been commuting between St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne.

Professor Doherty said really good scientists tried to look at their research from the ground up, discarding prior knowledge.

He said real insight often occurred when a person was relaxed and not focused on anything in particular. He encouraged people to “cultivate a bit of lost time” to achieve that state.

The Barry Jones Oration, named after former Lalor MP Barry Jones, is an annual event run by Wyndham council to promote learning, skills and critical thinking. The event was sponsored by Victoria University and WynBay LLEN.