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The road to scientific discovery is filled with untold stories of dead ends, road blocks and failures. Every scientific paper has a personal story behind it. What were the struggles and sacrifices that led to the significant findings? How did failure lead to success? How did success lead to failure?

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol L. Folt, the University’s Nobel Laureate Oliver Smithies, other scientists and graduate students will tell their personal stories of failure at The Monti: #ScienceFail. The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Jan. 16 at Carolina’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

Scientists with Stories, a Carolina-Duke collaboration, and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center  are partnering with The Monti to produce the event.

Chancellor Folt is an internationally recognized environmental scientist and award-winning teacher whose research focused on the effects of dietary mercury and arsenic on human and ecosystem health, salmonid fisheries management and restoration, and global climate change. She and colleagues developed new technologies to assess mercury exposure and formed regional, national and international partnerships to shape public policy for safer waters.

Smithies is the Weatherspoon Eminent Distinguished Professor in UNC’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. In promoting the event, Scientists with Stories quoted Smithies’ wisdom from the 2007 Nobel Prize banquet. He spoke of three teachers who had influenced him, one being “distinguished flight instructor” Field Morey, who taught Smithies to fly at age 50. Smithies said Morey taught him that it is possible to overcome fear with knowledge.

“The same lesson applies to scientists and to those who are not scientists. The fear of failing, which many of us have when we try something new, can be overcome in the same way – with knowledge,” Smithies said.

The Monti is a nonprofit organization that invites people from the community to tell personal stories without the use of notes. Monthly events are held around the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area and as far away as Greensboro.

Published January 3, 2014.