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The 2022 Nobel Prizes in Science

Date: Thu. February 9th, 2023, 4:00 pm-6:00 pm
Location: Rockefeller 301 and via Zoom

Co-sponsored by the Departments of Chemistry and Physics and the Program in Cell Biology.

Jesse Berezovsky (Physics) on the prize in Physics; Metin Karayilan (Chemistry) on the prize in Chemistry; and Cynthia Beall (Anthropology) and Patricia Princehouse (Institute for the Science of Origins) on the prize in Physiology or Medicine. 

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2022 was awarded to Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger for experiments with entangled photons, elucidating the bizarre nature of quantum mechanics, and setting the stage to develop new types of quantum technology. Though quantum mechanics had already revolutionized science and technology by the mid-20th century, the theory rested on some strange, confusing, and even unsettling, foundations. Questions around the idea of quantum entanglement and the key role of “measurement” in quantum mechanics led to much debate over whether the theory was complete, and how it should be interpreted. It wasn’t until the 1970s, through experiments pioneered by Clauser, Zeilinger, and Aspect, that these strange phenomena were conclusively observed. Questions about the meaning of quantum mechanics are still hotly debated, but we now know that the universe truly is counterintuitive, and furthermore, that we can harness these strange properties for new ways of processing and transmitting information.

The 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded jointly to Barry Sharpless, Carolyn Bertozzi, and Morten Meldal “for the development of click chemistry and bio-orthogonal chemistry.” Sharpless and Meldal developed the first click reaction independently. The seminal review paper co-authored by Hartmuth Kolb, M. G. Finn, and Barry Sharpless was published in May 2001. Later that year, Sharpless received his first Nobel Prize (one-half of the award) in Chemistry for the discovery of currently known as Sharpless epoxidation reaction. The Click reaction is a very selective organic reaction between azides (-N3) and alkynes (C-C triple bonds) in the presence of a copper (Cu) catalyst. Later on, Bertozzi and co-workers developed the bio-orthogonal Cu-free click reaction by eliminating a cytotoxic metal catalyst. Metal-free reaction allowed this chemistry to be used in biological systems such as enabling the production of “clickable” antibodies to target tumors.

The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution. He and his team developed the methods of extracting and analyzing ancient DNA (aDNA) from fossils. Pääbo and his team published on aDNA from 40,000-year-old Neandertal fossils to address long-standing questions about human evolution: the characteristics and abilities of Neandertal and their relationship to modern humans.  They repeated the process on a tiny finger bone from a girl who died earlier in Siberia and discovered another extinct group related to both Neandertals and modern humans, the Denisovans.  The booming field of paleogenomics changed what we know about our ancestors and provided new perspectives on the origins of modern human biology.  

Talks followed by a reception 5 – 6 pm. 

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