October 9, 2013
Prof. Arieh Warshel

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2013 was awarded to three researchers for “the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.” Israelis Arieh Warshel, of the University of Southern California, and Michael Levitt of Stanford University, together with Martin Karplus of the University of Strasbourg in France and Harvard University, share the prestigious honor and the $1.2 million purse.

Warshel, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Southern California, holds a BSc degree in chemistry from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and MSc and PhD degrees in chemical physics from the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Warshel moved to the US in 1976, when he joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at USC. The Kibbutz Sde Nahum-born Nobel laureate is known for his work on computational biochemistry and biophysics, and for developing what is known today as Computational Enzymology. He holds both Israeli and American citizenship.

Prof. Michael Levitt

Fellow Israeli, Levitt – who also holds British and US citizenship — is a biophysicist and Professor of Structural biology at Standford. In 1967-68, Levitt was a Royal Society Exchange Fellow at the Weizmann Institute; and from 1980-1987, served as a Professor of Chemical Physics at the world famous academic institution.

Levitt is known for being one of the first researchers to conduct molecular dynamics simulations of DNA and proteins and who developed first software for this purpose.

The trio were awarded for devising computer simulations that are used to understand and predict chemical processes.

“The work of Karplus, Levitt and Warshel is ground-breaking in that they managed to make Newton’s classical physics work side-by-side with the fundamentally different quantum physics,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. “Previously, chemists had to choose to use either/or.”

Meanwhile, theoretical physicists François Englert, professor emeritus at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, and Peter Higgs of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, are this year’s winners of the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics for their discovery of the Higgs boson.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the prize for “the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.”The Higgs boson is also called the ‘God Particle’ as it is a subatomic particle believed to be key to the formation of stars, planets and eventually life.

Tel Aviv University published a congratulatory statement on its homepage, citing Englert’s longtime affiliation with the Israeli academic institution.

Prof. Englert – a Holocaust survivor who is married to an Israeli – is currently a Raymond and Beverly Sackler Senior Professor by Special Appointment at the school through 2015.

Belgian physicist Francois Englert

“Professor Englert is a Belgian Jew, a professor emeritus at the University of Brussels and has had close research ties with the Tel Aviv University for the past 30 years,” TAU said in a statement.

In 1964, Englert and his late colleague Robert Brout were the first to publish their theory that ultimately led to the Nobel prize. Higgs also published a paper in 1964, in which he was the first to theorize the existence of a new particle type.

“I am overwhelmed to receive this award and thank the Royal Swedish Academy,” Higgs said in a statement released by the University of Edinburgh. “I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research.”

In 2004, Englert, Higgs and Brout won the Israeli Wolf Prize, an honor often seen as a precursor to the Nobel Prize.

The international research team at CERN included 11 Israeli scientists from the Weizmann Institute, Tel Aviv University, Technion Institute and Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

To read more about Israel’s newest Nobel laureates, click here.

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