Exceptional Athletes and Nobel Laureates

Exceptional Athletes and Nobel Laureates


At EPIC, we are studying exceptional achievement among scientists and athletes and how failure experiences have shaped their path to success. We interviewed Nobel Laureates and exceptional athletes to understand the strategies that they used to benefit from their failure experiences. Unpacking their wisdom and beliefs would inspire students to tackle struggles and setbacks in school and beyond.

Recently, we have interviewed the following great minds:

Exceptional Athletes


standing in front of a light blue background, tossing up a orange and white basketball
Valerie Ackerman
Basketball, Founding President of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), Former President of USA Basketball, Women's Basketball Hall of Fame
Nathan Adrian wearing USA Olympic blue and red jacket smiling and holding up his gold medal
Nathan Adrian
Swimming, Five-Time Olympic Gold Medalist, Ten-Time World Champion in FINA World Aquatics Championships
Shane Battier wearing black, red and white jersey looking upwards and smiling
Shane Battier
Basketball, Two-Time NBA Championships, Member of the U.S. National Team
Simone Biles waring white USA Olympic jacket holding her gold medal in her right hand and yellow flowers in her right hand
Simone Biles
Gymnastics, Five-Time World All-Around Champion, Four-Time Olympics Gold Medalist, Nineteen-Time World Champion in World Championships
Chris Bosh wearing Miami Heat jersey in mid jog
Chris Bosh
Basketball, Two-Time NBA Championships, Olympics Gold Medalist, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
Natalie Coughlin wearing red jacket, smiling, holding up her gold medal
Natalie Coughlin
Swimming, Twelve-Time Olympic MedalistThree-Time World Champion in FINA World Aquatics Championships
David Duval holding golf club mid swing
David Duval
Golf, Former No. 1 Golfer in the World, Open Champion
Julie Foudy wearing a red shirt and smiling with a soccer ball tucked under her right arm
Julie Foudy
Soccer, Two-Time FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion, Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist
Colleen Hacker, Ph.D.
Professor in Kinesiology at Pacific Lutheran University, Internationally Recognized Speaker and Consultant in Performance Psychology
Kristen Kjellman wearing lacrosse jersey mid run, holding her lacrosse stick and wearing her lacrosse helmet and white jersey
Kristen Kjellman
Lacrosse, All-time Northwestern Record for Goals and Points, Sportswomen of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation
Steve Mesler
Bobsledder, Olympic Gold Medalist in 2010, World Champion in World Championships in 2009
Adam Oates dressed in hockey uniform skating
Adam Oates
Ice Hockey, NHL Hall of Fame, Named NHL Top 100 Greatest Players of All time
Decathlon Olympic Champion Dan O'Brien holding up American flag behind him
Dan O'Brien
Decathlon, Three-Time World Champion in World Championships, World Champion in World Indoor Championships, Olympic Gold Medalist, World Record (1992-1999)
Nolan Pratt Wearing his back, yellow and white NHL jersey, skating on ice while holding a hockey stick
Nolan Pratt
Ice Hockey, Two-Time Stanley Cup Winner, NHL Coach of the Colorado Avalanche
NHL star Dan Quinn in team jersey
Dan Quinn
Ice Hockey, World Champion in World Championships, NHL Star
Olympic Medalist Abby Wambach holding up American Flag behind her
Abby Wambach
Soccer, Two-Time Olympic gold medalist, World Champion in FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015
Brad Wikerson dressed in baseball uniform swinging a baseball bat
Brad Wilkerson
Baseball, MLB Star, Olympic Gold Medalist

Nobel Laureates


profile of Martin Shalfie
Martin Chalfie
Ph.D. in Neurobiology, Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, A 2008 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
profile of Joachim Frank
Joachim Frank
Ph.D. in Physics, Professor of Biochemistry at Columbia University, A 2017 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Edmund smiling
Edmund Phelps
Ph.D. in Economics, Professor of Economics at Columbia University, the 2006 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences
Carl Wieman
Ph.D. Professor of Physics and of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, A 2001 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Background Image: Einstein Background

Research Spotlight: “Even Einstein Struggled

Students’ beliefs that success in science depends on exceptional talent negatively impact their motivation to learn. For example, such beliefs have been shown to be a major factor steering students away from taking science and math courses in high school and college. In the present study, we tested a novel story-based instruction that models how scientists achieve through failures and struggles.

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