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Mixing humor and heartbreak, Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist delves into the lab of charismatic professor Dr. Lawrence Shapiro, and follows three irrepressible graduate students on their determined pursuit of a PhD and scientific success. As if the pressure of scientific discovery isn’t enough, the students are also competing in a worldwide race to be the first to publish their findings. Their challenge: to decipher the structure and mechanism of AMPK, a tiny protein that controls the burning and storage of fat. Their road to success: years of trial and error, unflinching dedication, rock-climbing, rumors of pickle juice, and the music of The Flaming Lips.

Visit the Naturally Obsessed Web Site for More Information


Major funding was provided by Merck.

Additional funding was provided by
The Winston Foundation, Richard J. Lounsbery Foundation, Jack Rudin, Robert Rifkind, Martin Leibowitz, Rifkind Family Foundation, J&AR Foundation, Hazen-Polsky Foundation, Lawrence Buttenweiser, William Golden, Peter Felcher, William Grant, James, Marcus, Jane Kosovsky, John O’Neil, Nancy Rifkind, Barbara Rifkind and & Adam Brandenburger and Anthony Viscusi.

Production Credits

  • comments (41)
  • june maleh

    Great film! Please repeat it several times this year. I am telling many students in the field to watch it, and some missed it tonight.
    Thank you.

  • Allen J. Hall

    A film that is a must see for all graduate students and significant others of graduate students. It’s so hard to describe this struggle. In each student, I saw myself. It is a very strange thing, this degree. The struggle towards discovery of something others in your field will read and comment on. Ultimately, the struggle is within, and this film brought this out so very well. Thank you for making it! Keep playing it. I’ll keep suggesting it to all my graduate friends and family!

    Big big cheers,

    (Who has done diffraction before… but thank goodness I don’t work in protein structures! I have my own serious pursuit of course, but proteins are a go or no-go situation in science often. Graduates can be trying to study a structure for over 10 years.)

  • Dr. Parul Madia

    I am an ophathalmologist in India. My daughter is doing phd in opioid receptor at st. john in newyork who sent me this video. Wow! that was an effort you all put in! Thanks! You need great determination and dedication.

  • Carlos Blondel

    Great Film !! I would like to buy the DVD, do you know if it comes also with spanish subtitles?

  • Godwin Onuoha

    Great Film! Check this out.

  • Dr. SY Ku

    No food or drink in the lab, Kil ! (6:59) Especially not under your heavy atom collections. Gloves on when handling liquid nitrogen, please (19:20).

    Congratulations, Rob. Technology has advanced. There are 3rd generation beamline that is much more intense than NSLS and software that could handle the “mess” your beamline scientist has told you. (29:30).

    Dr. Wayne Hendrickson looked tense…

  • asma rehman

    this fil is an inspiration of my PhD in structutal biology which i never liked. but i can not survive without its. Thank you so much Dr. Lawrence Shapiro. one day i wish to work with you …

  • Jeff K

    Great film! It nicely highlights the struggles and realism of modern science. Long Island’s NSLS is nicely featured. Stay tuned for NSLS-II — it will be brightest in the world when it turns on in 2014!

  • amilyas

    Great film! I want to buy the DVD,how can I do it? I’m a student in China.

  • hidde ploegh

    this is an outstanding portrayal of life in the trenches – it conveys very well the excitement and frustrations of what happens in a biochemistry lab. better than anything else i’ve seen, the film succeeds in getting across the notion that the rewards while hard-won can be immensely gratifying.

  • marvin

    was just surprised not to see a single international phd student participate knowing most grad students in the US are foreigners! just a thought

  • Mary

    Unbelievable – I had flashbacks to my years struggling to obtain a PhD. I think mentors like Dr. Shapiro are invaluable and rare. After all, a mentors career depends on the success of his or her mentees. As a result, they can be bad mentors standing over their students, applying pressure, channeling their angst. But Dr. Shapiro represents that rare mentor that channels positivity, confidence, patience….All three grad students selected such different paths but not one can be labeled anything but a success! Fantastic film!

  • Mallika

    Hats off for such a revealing film about graduate students in an IVY league school. I am a PhD student myself in one such IVY league school and struggle with loving science and hating it at the same time. Its a passion almost all carry when they enter into their program but it gets lost somewhere during those 5 – 6years may i say miserable years. It is a struggle not only for the person involved but also to those near and dear and this film shows how important that support is.
    My adviser recently told me that her job was not to motivate or pat me on my back but only to critic me. It is important to have an adviser who is available to you for you to succeed. I felt miserable but after seeing this movie i feel better and hope in the near future i will be the one to open a bottle of champagne.

  • derek

    They should just do NMR ;)

  • Manish Kumar

    Simply superb!!!!!!

  • Sathish Babu

    A good dosage of optimism. Thanks you all

  • Veeranagouda

    Great real movie!
    I strongly recommend this movie specially those who interested to take science as their career.
    Thanks for uploading on web.

  • Buel Rodgers

    Several PIs in my department bought lunch for our research groups and we all watched the movie together. I strongly suggest other faculty groups to do the same as it sparked an invaluable discussion and allowed students and professors to speak freely about the mentor/mentee relationship.

  • Raea

    Great movie! It captures the emotional feel of grad school in the sciences very well. The best part is seeing that the work for this discovery was done by someone who followed his own circuitous path and also harbored self-doubt, yet had the resilience and drive (and luck!) to make it happen. In other words, he’s just like me.

  • Raea

    Great movie! It captures the emotional feel of grad school in the sciences very well. The best part is seeing that the work for this discovery was done by someone who followed his own circuitous path and also harbored self-doubt, yet had the resilience and drive (and luck!) to make it happen. In other words, he’s just like me. This movie tells me that even though I am not perfect and didn’t go to college continuously after high school (to the chagrin of some people in my life), I too can succeed.

  • Michael

    It is a wonderful movie as a whole….on target re description of science and the scientist, but unfortunately one of the first statements made in the movie is sadly, highly inaccurate. And as a result, the statement significantly misinforms the public, and could (likely?) negate any positive contributions the film portrays about scientists and science. Within the first 5 minutes a narrator states that one of the most important traits a scientist could have is to “suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)”; what he likely meant to say is “obsessive compulsive personality”. There is a very significant difference between the two. Clearly this individual has never met somebody with OCD. Obsessive compulsive personality is a trait that is characteristic of many good scientist, as well as other leaders of many disciplines in the world. OCD though is one of the most devastating non-psychotic psychological disorders that could afflict an individual. It is the 4th most common mental disorder (one in 50 adults have the disease), and if left untreated, can devastate theirs and their family members lives. A person with untreated OCD could very likely never complete a single experiment, much less obtain a Ph.D. Depending on the type of OCD they may have, it could take them many hours to simply wash their hands, or 2 or 3 pieces of glassware. It could take them hours to turn on a Bunsen burner, an instrument in the lab, or the light in the lab to start the day. If their particular behavior has a strong obsessive component, it could take them hours just to label the first line of their notebook each day. Or walk into the lab since they have to take a certain number of walking steps in order for them to begin an experiment. Plugging in anything into a socket could be game breaker, since they may need to check the plugs 50 or 100 time (with checking using only numbers that are divisible by 4, 10, 12…) until they “know” it is plugged in completely so harm would not come to others through a fire. Or they my not be able to report some data from an experiment, because the numbers “3″ and “5″ as part of their data are not considered “good” numbers. Regardless of their obsessions, it would be likely that they would have little time to think about science, much less think creatively about a scientific problem since so much of their efforts would be to just to move from point A to B within the lab or to arrive at the lab. Anyway, it is a sad commentary that the editors missed this statement, especially in light that the focus of the film is also on neuroscience. Hopefully scientist and the public and those with the disorder will not catch the mistake. Otherwise, we are trivializing one of the most serious and traumatic mental disorders that can affect an individual.

    Just some thoughts….


  • vagish

    Nice movie, very motivating and realistic. Probably people would understand what it takes to be successful in research.

    Michael people do not require a lecture here on OCD, they just want a lively documentary to watch; anyway thanks for the detail that people do not need to know. And I am a MD with two more postgraduate advanced degrees and have mild OCD as well and completed all of them before I turned 29, probably because of my OCD. And that is what I have found so far in my career among my colleagues as well working at the best of the place that I work in research in the world, sorry you have not been to the top notch yet so do not know.

  • Dusti

    Great movie! As with others, I agree, the movie is not a “catch-all” for the various experiences that one can have in a science related graduate program. It does portray the struggle that some may experience when completing something that can make or break many future career choices. I know that my grad school sojourn has been pretty miserable; yet, I continue to progress to my destined defense.

  • Carlos Blondel

    Great Film !!

    Do you plan to add subtitles in other languages on the DVD, any time soon? Im from SouthAmerica and we would love to share this video to generate discussion inside our universities and grad schools.

    Best regards,

    Carlos Blondel
    Biochemistry PhD
    University of Chile

  • Rogelio Siles

    This is a good film showing some general aspects of the life of a graduate student (of course depending of the science field we may find significant differences). I would recommend the audience to read a paper which is closely related to this topic as well:


    Congratulations for taking the initiative of making this film. I am sure many people would appreciate.

  • Becky W

    This is an inspiring film for everyone in graduate school and I will be sure to send it to my boyfriend and friends who are going through this same scientific struggle! I never realized what tenacity and a basic hunger to succeed is needed in order to make it in this kind of environment!

  • Gowriishankar R

    hi, i cant able to view the video.Please help me to sort out this problem. Is the video available to download freely?

  • Claudia

    How can I see the video?

  • Federico Sinche

    Very encouraging film for all of us who are working day and night in the lab…

  • andrea

    this was so good!
    My boyfriend is a PhD student, and I’m a pediatrician, and it’s very hard for me to understand how this science thing works… I’m so gold-oriented (you know, live/death, illness/health) that this thing of work-hoping-some-day-it-makes-sense wasn’t logical to me at all, and seen this has helped me to see with other eyes my boyfriend’s work… so, this is really a good thing to recommend to all the significant others of graduate students!!

  • Akshay

    Simply the best… Ultimate 1 no.

  • Hamlet Hernandez

    Great film. I am showing it to my Algebra 1 students. We are hooked on it.

  • Pinnacle

    That is really the life for the biology students. Anyway I would say it is only the sunny part, in some cases it will be even worse. PhD is not a easy life….

  • Harish

    Good movie……But i need to watch in a quiet environment….So please give the option to download this movie…..

  • Bill

    THIRTEEN should do a weekly show on research scientists in different fields produced similar to this documentary. I actually learned a lot watching this documentary and reading some of the comments as well.

  • Alex

    Great movie. Thanks for posting. Will share with friends.

  • lear

    simply inspiring!!

  • Ghoku

    Great inspiration for students.

  • ladywhl

    great film, i regretted why i didn’t see it earlier. when seeing the result published the SCIENCE, i am so excited that i can’t hold my heart. Maybe this is the charming of science

  • Michael

    Just wait. It keeps getting even harder. Now you need to complete a post-doc (or -docs) with a compelling set of publications and dazzling lecture to land the increasingly rare “real” job at a research university, institute or corporation. Then you need to recruit your own lab personnel, land a research grant or two, publish (or perish) and earn tenure. Repeat and rinse for the rest of your career on all but the tenure issue. Also devote lots of your precious time to teaching and “service” (committee work) if you’ve chosen the academic route. Before you know it, a lifetime has gone by. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world though. Just had to do it. I do think the younger people have it tougher landing jobs & grants nowadays, though the degree programs are less structured. — A retired Biochemistry Professor (Mol. genetics & nucleic acid chem.)

  • Anon

    3 PhD students are pitched against each other in the same lab try to solve a single kinase crystal structure (AMPK). 1 succeeds, publishes in Science, and goes on to a post-doc. The other 2 fail and go on to other non-academic pursuits. This lab academic/head should be shot! All students should have been given independent projects.