Eight scientists from several different countries will share the 2015 Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry, and Physics. Everyone in science is excited and is rushing to look in Science or Nature for all the details! All these new Nobel Laureates should be congratulated by the public and by other scientists for their excellence in experimental research! For background on the purpose and history of the prizes established by Alfred Nobel, see: http://www.nobelprize.org . The latest Nobel Prizes will be bestowed at ceremonies during the extensive Nobel Week festivities (December 5-12, 2015). Below, I will briefly summarize the new Laureates and their impressive research achievements.
Physiology or Medicine .
The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to 3 scientists who discovered and developed new medical therapies that annually benefit several hundred millions of patients with parasitic diseases: William C. Campbell (Drew University, in Madison, New Jersey, US), Satoshi Omura (Kitasato University, in Tokyo, Japan), and Youyou Tu (China Academy of Chinese Medicine, in Beijing, PRC). Pharmaceutical drugs resulting from their discoveries by research in microbiology and pharmacology now are widely used for effective clinical treatment of parasitic infections with roundworms (lymphatic filariasis, or river blindness) and malaria; both of these dreaded diseases afflict millions of persons today, particularly in developing tropical nations. Thus, their basic research in laboratories has had a very widespread practical importance for clinical medicine.
The 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be presented to 3 scientists who discovered different types of DNA repair mechanisms: Tomas Lindahl (Francis Crick Institute, in London, England), Paul Modrich (Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham, North Carolina, US), and Aziz Sancar (University of North Carolina School of Medicine, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, US). Their independent biochemical research experiments examined how acquired damage to the DNA molecules in genes, and errors in replicating DNA during chromosome duplication, are repaired by different protein-based mechanisms so that genes within cells can continue to function normally. The importance of their findings in this area, and the large current research competition for making discoveries about DNA repair in relation to developing new treatments for cancer, are emphasized by the fact that only a month ago the prestigious Lasker Prize for medical research was awarded to 2 other scientists for research discoveries about DNA repair.
The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to 2 investigators in the field of particle physics: Takaaki Kajita (University of Tokyo, in Tokyo, Japan) and Arthur McDonald (Queen’s University, in Kingston, Canada). They independently discovered that neutrinos, which are a rather mysterious type of elementary particle, change (oscillate) their identity and certain characteristic properties as they travel at nearly the speed of light from space into the Earth’s atmosphere. Their honored research was conducted at very special neutrino detection facilities located underground in deep mines, and staffed by many scientists (Super-Kamiokande Detector in Japan, and Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada). Their experimental results gave evidence indicating that some neutrinos indeed do have an extremely minute mass; these new findings are immensely significant for advancing knowledge and understanding about the physics of fundamental particles.
Brief discussion about the 2015 Nobel Prize winners.
The Nobel Prizes in science continue to bring forth excellent researchers and outstanding experimental studies to the attention of the public worldwide. Last year I published some features which commonly characterize winners of Nobel Prizes in science (see: “What does It Take to Win the Big Prizes in Science?” ). The individual 2015 Nobel Laureates mostly show those attributes, along with several others: (1) some Laureates conducted their prize-winning research work many decades ago, (2) all their wonderful discoveries began with studies in basic research, (3) the celebrated outcome of their work was developed further by important later contributions from other scientists, engineers, and commercial companies, and, (4) some of the prize-winning investigations have large immediate practical applications and impact, while others advance knowledge and understanding so that important new questions arise for further research. Although some Nobel Laureates in 2015 researched as leaders with large groups of coworkers, all seem to be distinctive individuals who are very dedicated to science, have innovative ideas, and persist in their research efforts.
The new award to Youyou Tu is for her research that also involved very many other scientists for a nationwide effort against malaria that was initiated by Chairman Mao in China. Her Nobel Prize once again raises the difficult and unanswerable question about whether it really is fair to honor only one person when there is a research partner or many co-workers (see: http://news.sciencemag.org/health/2015/10/updated-nobel-prize-honors-drugs-fight-roundworms-malaria ). Some outspoken Chinese critics of this 2015 award therefore might even propose that Chairman Mao should also get a Nobel Prize!
For the latest Nobel Prize in physics, it is interesting to note that several other Nobel Prizes were previously awarded for research on neutrinos, most recently in 2008 (see: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/ ). In general, certain research subjects and fields get more Nobel Prizes than do others; this tendency is due to the interdisciplinary nature of some research fields (e.g., investigations in biochemistry might be honored by a Nobel Prize in either Medicine or Chemistry).
For further information about the 2015 Nobel Prizes in Science.
Readers are encouraged to examine more information about the winning researchers and their investigations! I recommend reading the text references listed below, since all feature good information suitable for non-scientist adults. Additional general information about the new Nobel Prize Laureates is available at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/ .
 Nobel Prize, 2015. Press release, the 2015 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine (see: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2015/press.html ).
 Nobel Prize, 2015. DNA repair – providing chemical stability for life. The Nobel Prize in chemistry 2015, Popular science background (see: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2015/press.html ).
 Nobel Prize, 2015. The chameleons of space. The Nobel Prize in physics 2015, Popular science background (see: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2015/popular-physicsprize2015.pdf ).
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