Wednesday, October 9, 2013

2013 Nobel Prize--Two Israeli scientists who emigrated to U.S. win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Arieh Warshel, Michael Levitt, and Martin Karplus win prize for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems; all three scientists are Jewish, while Warshel and Levitt hold Israeli citizenship.

By Ido Efrati for Haaretzv and The Associated Press

Three Jewish scientists - two of them Israelis who emigrated to the U.S. - won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday.

Arieh Warshel, Michael Levitt and Martin Karplus were awarded the top international prize for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.

All three winners are U.S. citizens, but also hold dual citizenships. Warshel and Levitt are Israeli citizens and both studied at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, and the prior was also educated at the Technion. Austrian-born Karplus had fled the Nazis to the U.S. as a child. The Nobel prize was awarded to them on the basis of their research at American universities.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Wednesday said, upon awarding the prize of 8 million crowns ($1.25 million), that their research in the 1970s has helped scientists develop programs that unveil chemical processes such as the purification of exhaust fumes or the photosynthesis in green leaves.

"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 academy said. "Previously, chemists had to choose to use either/or."

Karplus, a U.S. and Austrian citizen is affiliated with the University of Strasbourg, France, and Harvard University. Levitt is a U.S., Israeli and British citizen and a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Warshel is a U.S. and Israeli citizen affiliated with the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Pretoria-born Levitt, immigrated to Israel aged 35 in 1983. He married an Israeli, and worked a few years at the Weizmann Institute until he left for Stanford University in California.

Warshell completed his undergraduate studies in chemistry at Technion Institute in Haifa in 1966. From there he went on to the Weizmann Institute, where he completed his doctorate in three years, finishing in 1970. Between 1972 and 1976 he was a researcher at the chemistry faculty, in the Department of Structural Biology. He left in the 70s to go to the U.S. According to one of his fellow students at the Technion, Professor Shammai Speiser, this was because he couldn't get tenure at the Weizmann Insitute.

Speaking to Israel Radio on Wednesday, Warshell's wife said that her husband "didn't know how to market himself well enough for Israeli academia." 

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