Tag Archives: Nobel Laureates

THE 2016 NOBEL PRIZES IN SCIENCE ARE ANNOUNCED! 

 

Adjusted Photographic Portrait of ALFRED NOBEL in the late 1800's, by Gösta Florman. Common Domain Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons at the Wikipedia website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred Nobel_adjusted.jpg .
Adjusted Photographic Portrait of ALFRED NOBEL in the late 1800’s, by Gösta Florman. Common Domain Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons at the Wikipedia website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred Nobel_adjusted.jpg .

 

Seven scientists from the many thousands worldwide have just been announced to share the 2016 Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry, and, Physics.  Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) had a very eventful life in addition to discovering dynamite; fascinating details about his adventures are well worthwhile for you to read (see:  “Alfred Nobel – St. Petersburg, 1842-1863” and, Alfred Nobel – His Life and Work” )!  Nobel conducted scientific research in chemistry, and also was active as an engineer, industrialist, and inventor.  His will bequeathed his fortune to set up ongoing global prizes for scientific work providing the greatest benefit to all humans.  Details about all the Nobel Prizes in science and in non-science are described at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes .

All scientists would dearly love to win a Nobel Prize, but only a very few ever attain this most prestigious honor in science!  The new awards will be bestowed at ceremonies and events during the special Nobel Week festivities at Stockholm, Sweden (December 5-10,  2016).  The latest Nobel Laureates should be much appreciated by the general public, and congratulated by other scientists for the excellence in their experimental research!  A brief summary of the 2016 Laureates and their honored research achievements follows.

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine [1,2]! 

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi, Ph.D. (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan), for his research determining the detailed molecular mechanisms for the functioning of autophagy (autophagocytosis) in cellular health and disease.  Autophagy provides the controlled destruction of old or damaged subcellular organelles (e.g., mitochondria) or other objects inside eukaryotic cells; after cytoplasmic membranes rearrange to surround the targets, those bodies merge with lysosomes (small packages of hydrolytic enzymes) so the targets are completely broken down without exposing the rest of the cell to that destruction.  Most eukaryotic cells use autophagy as the primary means to keep everything renewed, fresh, and functionally active.  Autophagy complements heterophagy (phagocytosis), where cells internalize external targets (e.g., bacteria) and subsequently destroy them by lysosomal hydrolysis.

Ohsumi’s breakthrough research using molecular genetics discovered how autophagy is activated and regulated, how mutations in proteins controlling autophagocytosis can cause disease states in humans, and how the functioning of autophagy has a wide importance for cell biology and cell pathology.  His discoveries with basic research have solved longstanding questions in cell biology and have led to new investigations with applied research by numerous other scientists.

Nobel Prize in Physics [3,4]!

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to 3 scientists for theoretical investigations about unusual states of matter: David J. Thouless, Ph.D. (University of Washington, Seattle, WA, U.S.), F. Duncan M. Haldane, Ph.D. (Princeton Univ ersity, Princeton, NJ, U.S., and J. Michael Kosterlitz, Ph.D. (Brown University, Providence, RI, U.S.).  They fundamentally advanced condensed matter physics by studying the topological organization of atoms kept in highly unusual states (i.e., by extreme heating or cooling).  Under such conditions, matter can have different states of organization than the usual gases, liquids, and solids.  Using mathematical analyses, they were able to explain their findings and make detailed theoretical proposals that were later validated by further experimental studies.

This new understanding about matter is anticipated to provide a good basis for future research and engineering development of new superconductors and quantum computers.  The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics nicely exemplifies the importance of theoretical research studies for stimulating advances in experimental investigations (see “Towards Understanding Theoretical Research in Science” ).

Nobel Prize in Chemistry [5,6]! 

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded to 3 pioneering chemists who designed and produced controllable machines made from molecules: Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Ph.D. (University of Strasbourg, France), J. Fraser Stoddart, Ph.D. (Northwestern University, Evanston, IL., U.S.), and Bernard L. Feringa, Ph.D. (University of Groningen, The Netherlands).  Using experimental formations by different types of newly synthesized chemical molecules, they showed that their designed molecular interactions could repeatedly produce lifting, moving, or rotation in response to provision of energy; these new constructs can form molecular machines, motors, and even a “nanocar”.

Miniaturization to the level of molecules gives chemistry an innovative new dimension.  Many researchers and engineers now are working to develop new applications of the technology established during decades of investigations by the 2016 Nobel Laureates in chemistry.  Anticipated developments include new materials, sensors, systems for energy storage, and even computers.

Brief discussion and comments about the 2016 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.  Several of the latest Nobel Prizes follow from earlier Nobel Prizes awarded for outstanding research in related subject areas.  Most discoveries by Nobel Laureates began with studies in basic research, which opened the door for later applied research, engineering developments, and industrial productions.  The individual Nobel Laureates in 2016 have some features that commonly characterize winners of all the big honors in science (see: “What Does It Take to Win the Big Prizes in Science? ).

The 2016 award to Prof. Ohsumi is notable because most Nobel Prizes in Medicine or Physiology have been awarded to multiple scientists, rather than to only one person.  He deserves lots of credit for his dedication to long investigations and innovative research leadership!

A frequent criticism of the Nobel Prizes in science is that they do not usually give credit to the research workers associated with the Laureates.  The Breakthrough Prizes, which compete with the Nobel Prizes for being very important honors in scientific research, awarded their 2016 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics to 3 scientists, plus to 1012 other individual workers who travailed on a very large and long research effort in big science [7]!

Check out further information about the 2016 Nobel Prizes in Science! 

All readers, whether scientists or non-scientists,  are encouraged to explore more information about the winning researchers!  Many good written and video presentations soon will be found on the internet!

 

[1]  Nobel Prize, 2016.  Press release, summary for 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (see: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2016/press.html ).

[2]  Nobel Assembly, 2016.  Scientific background: Discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy (see:  https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2016/advanced-medicineprize2016.pdf

[3] Nobel Prize, 2016.  Press release, The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 (see: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2016/press.html ).

[4]  Nobel Assembly 2016. Popular science background: Strange phenomena in matter’s flatlands (see:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2016/popular-physicsprize2016.pdf ).

[5]  Nobel Prize, 2016.  Press release, The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 (see: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2016/press.html ).

[6]  Nobel Assembly, 2016.  Popular science background: How molecules became machines (see:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nPobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2016/popular-chemistryprize2016.pdf ).

[7]  Breakthrough Prize, 2016.  Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics awarded for detection of gravitational waves 100 years after Albert Einstein predicted their existence (see:  https://breakthroughprize.org/News/32 ).

 

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THE 2015 NOBEL PRIZES IN SCIENCE ARE ANNOUNCED! 

 

Adjusted Photographic Portrait of ALFRED NOBEL in the late 1800's Taken by Gösta Florman. Common Domain Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons at the Wikipedia website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred Nobel_adjusted.jpg .
Adjusted Photographic Portrait of ALFRED NOBEL in the late 1800’s Taken by Gösta Florman. Common Domain Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons at the Wikipedia website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred Nobel_adjusted.jpg .

 

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 [1]. 

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.

Chemistry [2]. 

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.

Physics [3]. 

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/ .

 

[1]  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 ).

[2]  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 ).

[3]  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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THE 2014 NOBEL PRIZES IN SCIENCE ARE ANNOUNCED!

Adjusted Photographic Portrait of ALFRED NOBEL in the late 1800's Taken by Gösta Florman.  Common Domain Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons at the Wikipedia website:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred Nobel_adjusted.jpg .
Adjusted Photographic Portrait of ALFRED NOBEL in the late 1800’s.  Recorded  by Gösta Florman. Common domain image obtained from Wikimedia Commons at the Wikipedia website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred Nobel_adjusted.jpg) .

The Nobel Institute has just announced the awardees of this year’s Nobel Prizes in science.  As always, the scientists selected are unquestionably outstanding researchers and contributors to the progress of science.  The Nobel Prize [1] and the Kavli Prize [2] are the very highest honor any scientist can earn.

In this article, I will first present a short introduction to the Nobel Prizes in science, and then I will very briefly summarize the research work of the new 2014 honorees.  For each topic I also will offer some good resources where more information can be found on the internet. 

[1]  Nobel Prizes, 2014.  Nobel Prize facts.  Available on the internet at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/facts/ .

[2]  The Kavli Prize, 2014.  The Kavli Prize – Science prizes for the future.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.kavliprize.org/about .

The Nobel Prizes in Science

Alfred Nobel (1833 – 1896) is famed as the inventor of dynamite and other explosives, and as a very successful industrialist.  Surprisingly, this Swede had very limited formal schooling.  At his death, he held over 350 patents.  Nobel left much of his substantial fortune to establish the honorific prizes that bear his name; his will directed that the awards in science should be for “those who during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind”.  The first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901. 

At present, separate Prizes are devoted to all of the 3 major branches of science, and also to literature, economic sciences, and peace.  The selection of honorees (Nobel Laureates) is administered by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences,  The Nobel Assembly of the Karolinska Institute (Norway), and the Nobel Foundation.  The Nobel Prizes in science are presented by the royal ruler of Sweden during the large celebration of “Nobel Week” in December; each new Laureate gives a Nobel Lecture and receives a Nobel Medal, a Nobel Diploma, and a document stating their financial award.  As many Laureates have said, receiving a Nobel Prize is a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime experience; nevertheless, a few scientists actually have won a second Nobel Prize. 

The official history of Alfred Nobel is presented at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/alfred_nobel/ .  General information about the Nobel Prizes, Nobel Prize Week, Nobel Laureates, and the topics for recent awards are presented at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/ .  A listing of all the awardees for each Prize is given at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/facts/ .  Many good materials for science education and modern videos about the Nobel Prize awardees are available on that site.   First, you are required to select one item from very extensive lists of all the yearly Nobel Prizes and Laureates , and then to select one year; lastly, indicate whether you want to see a Nobel Lecture, an  Interview with a specific Laureate (highly recommended!), or a Commentary. 

2014 Nobel Prize in Physics

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physcs is awarded jointly to 3 professors : Isamu Akasaki, Ph.D. (Meijo University and Nagoya University, Japan), Hiroshi Amano, Ph.D. (Nagoya University, Japan), and, Shuji Nakamura, Ph.D. (University of California, Santa Barbara, USA).  Their determined and detailed research investigations over several decades finally led to several successful ways to create emission of blue light from light-emitting diodes (LEDs).  That invention then led to the long-sought development of LEDs that emit white light.  There now is worldwide installation of commercial white LEDs as replacements for standard light bulbs, since these new LEDs are brighter, less costly, longer lasting, non-polluting, and  much more efficient.  These practical improvements for everyday life came about through the classical sequence of basic research, applied research, and engineering developments, and, will benefit all humans. 

Further information about this 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics is available on the internet at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2014/press.html , and at:
http://www.nature.com/news/nobel-for-blue-led-s-that-revolutionized-lighting-1.16092 .  

2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded jointly to 3 academic scientists: Eric Betzig, Ph.D. (Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, Virginia, USA), Stefan W. Hell, Ph.D. (Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, and  German Cancer Research Center, Hdeidelberg, Germany), and William E. Moerner, Ph.D. (Professorships in Chemistry and Applied Physics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA).  Working independently, each contributed to enable the difficult technological breakthrough that permits light microscopy to become “nanoscopy” or “super-resolution light microscopy.  Much smaller details now can be seen than was previously possible with standard light microscopes.  This great advance in research instrumentation even allows detection of location and movements of individual protein molecules within living cells.

Further information about this 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry is available on the internet at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2014/popular-chemistryprize2014.pdf , and at: http://www.nature.com/news/nobel-for-microscopy-that-reveals-inner-world-of-cells-1.16097 . 

2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded jointly to 3 university scientists: John O’Keefe, Ph.D. (Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in Neural Circuits and Behaviour, University College London, U.K.), May-Britt Moser, Ph.D. (Centre for Neural Computation, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway), and Edward I. Moser, Ph.D. (Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway).  Their neuroscience research involves experimental studies of the brain, and seeks to define how place and navigation in the spatial environment are sensed, analyzed, and remembered.  Spatial memory is frequently affected in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.  Their investigations show that this sensing of spatial positioning occurs in certain cells within 2 brain locations; these cells talk to each other and together form a map of spatial locations that is recorded in the memory. 

Further information about this 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is available on the internet at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2014/press.html, and at:
http://www.nature.com/news/nobel-prize-for-decoding-brain=s-sense-of-place-1.16093 .

Concluding Remarks

The Nobel Prizes represent recognition that science, research, and scientists are producing new achievements that benefit all of us in our daily life.  Ordinary adults who are not scientists should be generally aware of the new Nobel Prize awards, and can point these out to any of their children showing interests in science.  For non-scientists, knowing the names of the Laureates is not important, but the nature and meaning of the research advances meriting these awards are significant (i.e., How are the results important to me and others?).  The Nobel Prizes are a recognition of preeminent progress in global science, and everyone is invited to join this celebration!  

Professional scientists should be particularly aware of the new Nobel Laureates in their branch of science.  Only a small handful of scientists ever win a Nobel Prize, and some who clearly deserve one are passed over.  All research scientists should join in celebrating the wonderful achievements of the 2014 Laureates, and also should celebrate their own less-recognized contributions to the progress of science! 

 

 

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