by Joy Esiemokhai
The College of Science and Mathematics held the 2013 edition of its Popular Lectures on Nobel Prizes on Monday, November 11, 2013, in the Townsend Center for the Performing Arts. The world-renowned Nobel Prize was inaugurated in 1901 and is awarded to individuals making huge advancements in their respective fields. The 2013 winners were no different, with the awardees receiving the Nobel Prize for various innovations.
Dr. John Hansen, UWG associate professor of chemistry
The presentation, which was organized for the fourth consecutive year, saw three UWG faculty members from the college discuss the significances of the advancements made by the winners in the scientific categories. The event was free and open to the public. A reception for attendees began at 5:00 p.m. with students, faculty and guests mingling and enjoying the refreshments.
Dr. Melissa Johnson, assistant professor of biology at UWG, was the first speaker of the night. She presented on the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine which was jointly awarded to James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof. According to www.nobelprize.org, the trio received the award “for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.” Her presentation discussed how vesicles work and the proteins involved in vesicular transport. She spoke about how learning more about vesicular travel and the proteins that control this transport system can help in the search for cures for incurable diseases such as Type II diabetes.
Dr. Judith Talbot, UWG associate professor of physics, was the next speaker of the evening. Her presentation centered on the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics which was jointly awarded to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs. According to www.nobelprize.org, the award was presented to Englert and Higgs “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 particles, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.” Dr. Talbot discussed the discovery of the Higgs boson which proves that the Higgs field, a field which exists everywhere in the universe, does exist. She also elaborated on the Higgs mechanism which gives particles mass by way of interactions with the Higgs field. Mass is the fundamental characteristic of all matter. Dr. Talbot explained that the discovery of the Higgs mechanism and boson could help explain more about how our universe and solar system was formed.
The final lecture of the evening was presented by Dr. John Hansen, UWG associate professor of chemistry, on the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry which was awarded to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel. The trio earned the award “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.” They developed a computer program which allowed for the solution of complex experimental data concerning molecules such as proteins. According to Hansen, by understanding such processes which were, for the first time, able to be clearly explained by use of the models built by the computer program, “we could probably develop therapies and cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Type II diabetes.”
The presentations ended with a question and answer session which saw attendees ask the presenters various questions related to the topics discussed. Dr. Farooq Khan, the dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, presented the speakers with a plaque commemorating the event. The lectures served to simplify the intricacies behind the 2013 Nobel Prize-winning topics and their contributions to not just their respective fields of study but also to science as a whole.