Israeli scientists win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Published on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 by Webmaster

Israeli scientists win Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Israeli scientists Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt were named as two of three winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with Austrian-American Martin Karplus. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Wednesday announced that the trio was being awarded “for the development of the multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”

Their research in the 1970s has helped develop computer models mirroring real life, which have “become crucial for most advances made in chemistry today,” the judging committee said.

Karplus and Warshel developed a computer program that brought together classical and quantum physics back in the early 1970s when they were both at Harvard. Warshel later joined forces with Levitt at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and at the University of Cambridge, to develop a program that could be used to study enzymes.

Their work helps in complex processes such as the development of drugs or photosynthesis. "Scientists can optimize solar cells, catalysts in motor vehicles or even drugs, to take but a few examples," the academy said.

"In short, what we developed is a way which requires computers to look, to take the structure of the protein and then to eventually understand how exactly it does what it does," Warshel told a news conference in Stockholm by telephone.

The win was another feather in the cap for Israeli academia. Warshel and Levitt are the 11th and 12th Israelis to win a prestigious Nobel Prize in the country's 65-year history, and the fifth and sixth to win the award in chemistry.

Warshel, 72, and Levitt, 66, have ties with the Weizmann Institute of Science, and the former also studied at the Techion Israel Institute of Technology. According to Ynet, Karplus also spent six months at the Weizmann Institute in 1969.

Benny Warshel, brother of the newest Nobel laureate, told Israel Radio that Arieh identifies very strongly with his Israeli roots.

"He fought in this country's wars, in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, and he defends Israel in academic circles," said Benny. "He's very connected to this country."

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