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Nobel Prizes 2013 for natural sciences awarded

Nobel Prizes 2013 for natural sciences awarded

The 2013 Nobel Prizes in natural sciences have been awarded by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In physics, the Nobel Prize was awarded for the theoretical model which gives mass to all particles. In chemistry, the Nobel Prize was awarded for pioneering work in computational chemistry. In medicine, the Nobel Prize was awarded for discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in cells.

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2013


Illustration shows data from decay of the Higgs boson into other particles after an 8-TeV mass energy collision event at CERN in 2012


The Nobel Prize in Physics 2013 was awarded jointly to François Englert, an emeritus professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), in Belgium, and Peter W. Higgs, an emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh, for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our fundamental understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles.

Working independently, Englert and Higgs and their coworkers proposed their theory in 1964. Confirmation of the theory rested upon discovery of the so-called Higgs boson, an elusive subatomic particle. The mechanism was confirmed last year through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, called Higgs boson, by experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Geneva.

The Higgs particle was long described as the missing piece of the Standard Model of particle physics.

Confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson completes the verification of the Standard Model. Without the Higgs boson, all particles would be massless.


The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013 was awarded jointly to Martin Karplus of University of Strasbourg and Harvard University, Michael Levitt of Stanford University School of Medicine,  and Arieh Warshel, professor at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles,  for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.

The three scientists won the Nobel chemistry prize for pioneering work on computer programs that simulate complex chemical processes and have revolutionised research in areas from drugs to solar energy.

Their work had effectively taken chemistry into cyberspace.

Computer models have become crucial for advances made in chemistry today. In drug design, for example, scientists can use computers to calculate how an experimental drug would react with a particular target protein by modelling the interplay of atoms in three-dimensional spaces.

The field of computational molecular modelling has revolutionised how we design new medicines by allowing us to accurately predict the behaviour of proteins. Today, all pharmaceutical companies use computational chemistry to optimise screening of  new experimental compounds in early phases of drug design, before testing them on animals or people.

The ability to model chemical reactions has significantly grown over the years, as computers have become more powerful, while progress in biotechnology has produced ever more complex large molecules for use in treating diseases.

The approach has many useful applications beyond the scope of drug development, in industrial processes, such as materials science, the design of solar cells or catalysts used in cars.


The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2013

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2013 was awarded jointly to James E. Rothman,  a cell biologist at Yale University , Randy W. Schekman, a cell biologist at the University of California, Berkeley,  and Thomas C. Südhof, a biochemist at Stanford University, for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.


cell-transport-systemFor their discoveries related to the fundamental mechanism which regulates the cellular transport system, critical to cell functioning.

Cells move molecules around using tiny membrane-enclosed packages called vesicles. This year’s Nobel Laureates, discovered how cells get those vesicles to their intended destination at the intended time.

The three winners discovered different aspects of the system. Schekman discovered a set of genes required for vesicle transport. Rothman determined the proteins that allow vesicles to fuse with their targets and thus transfer materials. Südhof discovered the signals that tell vesicles when to release their cargo.

Glitches in vesicle transport are associated generally with certain human diseases, such as diabetes. Mutations in genes associated with the protein machinery are involved in specific diseases. For example, mutations in one of the genes are involved in certain forms of epilepsy.

Christian Schumacher

Dr. Christian Schumacher is the founder and managing director of StepChange Innovations GmbH, a technology development and consulting firm based in Germany. He has more than 20 years of experience in the chemical industry with global players such as Hoechst AG and DyStar Textilfarben GmbH as head of R&D, senior regional business manager Asia Pacific, head of e-commerce, head of marketing services, new product development manager and R&D chemist.

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