Paul Nurse knows viscerally what it takes to build a productive scientist. Raised by his grandparents—a handyman and a cook—in class-conscious England, Nurse went on to do pioneering research in DNA and cell division, for which he won a Nobel Prize in 2001. In 2003 he was named president of the Rockefeller University in New York City, and in 2010 he became president of the British Royal Society, which makes him something of an expert in the cultural differences between European and North American scientists. He splits his time between London and New York, where he still does laboratory research. Nurse talked with Scientific American about the changing face of global science.