2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry highlights the cross-disciplinary nature of today’s research environment

News Release


Melville, NY, October 9, 2013 - Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel have been awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the developments of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”

The work behind this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry focuses on how to answer questions about the function of large complex systems.  This can rarely be done with experiment alone and relies heavily on theoretical computational modeling to reveal why a particular system behaves the way it does. Multiscale modeling uses information that is gathered at a smaller level to explain properties and behavior at a larger scale such as in biological systems.  The work done by Karplus, Levitt, and Warshel helps to accurately explain just that – what fluctuations at the molecular level contribute to function at the systems level.

In the 1970’s Warshel and Karplus began collaboration on this multiscale modeling technique relying on each other’s area of expertise to devise a computer program that would combine classical (large) and quantum (small) approaches to describe complex chemical systems. Levitt and Warshel then made further important strides which made it possible to study even larger systems such as proteins.  Understanding protein function and their subsequent degradation can lead to insight into a number of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 

“Today’s Nobel Prize announcement is a great example of how the study of Physics, Chemistry and Biology are crossing traditional boundaries to help tackle tough problems ranging from designing new materials for renewable energy to pharmaceutical drug design,” said John Haynes, CEO of AIP Publishing.

“Many of the seminal papers by this year’s Nobel Laureates that reported the first ways to embed quantum dynamics within classical simulations for multiscale modeling were published in The Journal of Chemical Physics,” said Marsha Lester, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal.  “Martin Karplus, in particular, has published much of his science (over 160 papers) in the Journal and this work has been cited nearly 20,000 times. This field continues to be a key focus for The Journal of Chemical Physics.”

AIP Publishing has compiled a number of resources relative to this year’s winners and the importance of their discovery, which can be found at www.aip.org/nobel/chemistry2013.html.

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About AIP

The American Institute of Physics is an organization of physical science societies, representing scientists, engineers and educators. Through its Physics Resources Center, AIP delivers valuable services and expertise in education and student programs, science communications, government relations, career services for science and engineering professionals, statistical research in physics employment and education, industrial outreach, and the history of physics and allied fields. AIP publishes Physics Today, the most influential and closely followed magazine of the physics community, and is also home to Society of Physics Students and the Niels Bohr Library and Archives. AIP owns AIP Publishing LLC, a scholarly publisher in the physical and related sciences. http://www.aip.org.

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