Nobel Prizes in physiology or medicine, physics and chemistry were awarded this week to scientists who made substantial and impactful contributions to their fields. University of Utah faculty are available to provide perspective and background on the new laureates’ science.
Physiology or medicine: Awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.” Autophagy is the cell’s process for recycling and breaking down cell components. At the U, Jody Rosenblatt studies the processes of cell death and can comment on the impact of Ohsumi’s work.
Physics: Awarded to David J. Thouless, F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.” The physicists have used a branch of mathematics, called topology, to study the properties of strange phases of matter, such as superconductors. Topology describes properties that change in a gradual progression. Their work has inspired a search for new exotic states of matter that may bring in a new wave of electronics or be used in future quantum computers. At the U, Dima Pesin, whose research in theoretical condensed matter physics includes topological insulators, is available to comment on the prize.
Chemistry: Awarded to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa “for the design and synthesis of molecular machines.” Molecular machines are, as the name suggests, simple machines such as motors that are made from a few molecules joined together. At the U, physicist Michael Vershinin studies how natural molecular motors in human muscles operate and carry cargo around our cells.