More on V. Ramakrishnan and a book that started it all
You could start with the telephone interview on the Nobel website. What's interesting is that Ramakrishnan did his PhD. from a not particularly distinguished university; his rather peripatetic career really seems to have taken off only several years after graduate school. I think this is a good illustration of what you can achieve even later in life if you put your mind to it. In the interview he says that in fact he was not very interested in his PhD. research project. He used to subscribe to Scientific American at the time and it was through the magazine that he realized that the most exciting developments were happening in biology (I was about to switch my subscription from Scientific American to Discover; maybe I should stick to Scientific American now). He was also inspired by the example of famous physicists like Francis Crick and Walter Gilbert who switched to molecular biology and made pathbreaking contributions.
It is worth remembering that one of the key influences that propelled physicists into molecular biology after the War was a little book by Erwin Schrödinger named "What is Life"? which laid out the basic questions- but tantalizingly, not the answers- necessary for addressing the questions of life and heredity at a molecular level. It makes for very interesting reading even today. The book was based on lectures that Schrödinger gave in neutral Ireland in 1943, one of the very few places not torn by the conflict. Schrödinger was also woefully ignorant of chemistry and therefore did not focus on metabolism (proteins), only on heredity. Now we know that metabolism might have evolved separately from genetics and is at least as important as genetics.
More links; profile of Ramakrishnan in TOI featuring interviews with his father. It's always amusing when, the moment someone wins a Nobel Prize, the fact that he or she does not own a car and bicycles to work every day suddenly becomes the title of a news piece! In this particular case, given that Ramakrishnan works in bicycle-friendly Cambridge, it's probably not surprising that he rides to work. He would probably not have done this had he worked in San Diego or at Yale.
Ramakrishnan is astonishingly the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology's 13th Nobel Laureate. The laboratory has been to molecular and structural biology what Rutherford's Cavendish Laboratory was to physics in the first half of the twentieth century. It was set up by Nobel Laureates and has served as a magnet for biostructural research for half a century.
More: A video interview with Ramakrishnan about his ribosome work, recorded at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (another molecular biology pioneer). It's worth noting how, in addition to being extremely perseverant and creative, Ramakrishnan was definitely also in the right place at the right time. For instance after his PhD. he ended up working with Peter Moore at Yale, a scientist who was then one of the very few people working on the ribosome. In addition, most modern high resolution structure determinations need access to a synchrotron which provides a very high intensity beam of x-rays. Ramakrishnan ended up at one of the world's premier sources of synchrotrons, Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Ramakrishnan also spares few words in castigating both the press and the general public for taking cognizance of important work only after it wins prizes. He says,
I think it’s a mistake to define good work by awards. This is a typical mistake that the public or even the press make. None of you called me about my work even two days ago… right?”