Tag Archives: Nobel

World Food Programme wins Nobel Peace Prize

The United Nations food agency, the World Food Programme (WFP), won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its efforts to combat hunger and improve conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas.

The Rome-based organization says it helps some 97 million people in about 88 countries each year and that one in nine people worldwide still do not have enough to eat.

“The need for international solidarity and multilateral co-operation is more conspicuous than ever,” chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen of the Norwegian Nobel Committee told a news conference.

The last time the accolade was awarded to a group was in 2017, when the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won.

WATCH | 2020 Nobel Peace Prize announcement:

There was no shortage of causes or candidates on this year’s list.

While the Norwegian Nobel Committee maintains absolute secrecy about whom it favours for arguably the world’s most prestigious prize, that has never stopped speculation ahead of the announcement.

Guesses — and bets — this year had focused on Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, recovering from a nerve agent attack he blames on Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the World Health Organization for its role in addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

Even U.S. President Donald Trump seemed to believe he deserves the prize, though one of the few predictions that pundits felt comfortable making was that he would be disappointed.

There were 318 candidates — 211 individuals and 107 organizations. Nominations could be made by a select group, including national lawmakers, heads of state and certain international institutions.

The deadline for nominations was Feb. 1, which meant that those on the front lines of fighting COVID-19 — which was only declared a pandemic in March — appeared unlikely contenders.

Along with enormous prestige, the prize comes with a 10-milion krona ($ 1.5 million Cdn) cash award and a gold medal to be handed out at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death. This year’s ceremony will be scaled down due to the pandemic.

On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize for physiology and medicine for discovering the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus. Tuesday’s prize for physics honoured breakthroughs in understanding the mysteries of cosmic black holes, and the chemistry prize on Wednesday went to scientists behind a powerful gene-editing tool. The literature prize was awarded to American poet Louise Glück on Thursday for her “candid and uncompromising” work.

Still to come next week is the prize for outstanding work in the field of economics.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News

Nobel chemistry prize awarded to 2 scientists for developing CRISPR gene editing tool

Two scientists won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry Wednesday for developing a way of editing genes likened to “molecular scissors” that offer the promise of one day curing inherited diseases.

Working on opposite sides of the Atlantic, French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier and American biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna came up with a method known as CRISPR-Cas9 that can be used to change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision.

It is the first time two women have won the chemistry Nobel together.

Their work allows for laser-sharp snips in the long strings of DNA that make up the “code of life,” allowing scientists to precisely edit specific genes to remove errors that lead to disease.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all,” said Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry. “It has not only revolutionized basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to groundbreaking new medical treatments.”

WATCH | 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry announcement:

Gustafsson said that, as a result, any genome can now be edited “to fix genetic damage.”

But he cautioned that the “enormous power of this technology means we have to use it with great care.”

It has already raised serious ethical questions. Most of the world became more aware of CRISPR in 2018, when Chinese scientist He Jiankui revealed he had helped make the world’s first gene-edited babies, to try to engineer resistance to future infection with the AIDS virus. His work was denounced worldwide as unsafe human experimentation because of the risk of causing unintended changes that can pass to future generations, and he’s currently in prison.

In September, an international panel of experts issued a report saying it’s still too soon to try to make genetically edited babies because the science isn’t advanced enough to ensure safety, but they mapped a pathway for any countries that want to consider it.

First time 2 women win chemistry Nobel

Charpentier, 51, spoke of the shock of winning.

“Strangely enough I was told a number of times [that I’d win], but when it happens you’re very surprised and you feel that it’s not real,” she told reporters by phone from Berlin after hearing of the award, announced in Stockholm by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. “But obviously it’s real, so I have to get used to it now.

“I was very emotional.”


Doudna and Charpentier have won numerous awards for their work. They are shown here receiving the Kavli Prize in nanoscience, alongside Lithuania’s Virginijus Siksnys, from King Harald of Norway in Oslo in 2018. (Berit Roald/AFP/Getty Images)

When asked about the significance of two women winning, Charpentier said that while she considers herself first and foremost a scientist, she hoped it would encourage others.

“I wish that this will provide a positive message to young girls who would like to follow the path of science,” said Charpentier, who is currently the director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin.

Doudna told The Associated Press of her own surprise — including that she learned she’d won from a reporter.

“I literally just found out, I’m in shock,” she said. “I was sound asleep.”

“My greatest hope is that it’s used for good, to uncover new mysteries in biology and to benefit humankind,” said Doudna, who is affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley, and is paid by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which also supports AP’s Health and Science Department.

Research published in 2012

The breakthrough research done by Charpentier and Doudna was only published in 2012, making the discovery very recent compared to many Nobel wins that are often only honoured after decades have passed.

Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, a member of the Nobel Committee, noted that the method developed by the two biochemists has revolutionized the life sciences.

“The genetic scissors were discovered just eight years ago, but have already benefited humankind greatly,” she said.

The Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT have been in a long court fight over patents on CRISPR technology, and many other scientists did important work on it, but Doudna and Charpentier have been most consistently honoured with prizes for turning it into an easily usable tool.


Charpentier and Doudna pose for the media during a visit to a painting exhibition by children about the genome in Spain in 2015. (Eloy Alonso/Reuters)

Dr. Francis Collins, who led the drive to map the human genome, said CRISPR “has changed everything” about how to approach solutions to diseases with a genetic cause, such as sickle cell disease.

“You can draw a direct line from the success of the human genome project to the power of CRISPR-cas to make changes in the instruction book,” said Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health that helped fund Doudna’s work.

Third Nobel prize awarded this week

The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million krona ($ 1.5 million Cdn), courtesy of a bequest left more than a century ago by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel. The amount was increased recently to adjust for inflation.

On Monday, the Nobel committee awarded the prize for physiology and medicine to Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and British-born scientist Michael Houghton, who currently works at the University of Alberta, for discovering the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus.

Tuesday’s prize for physics went to Roger Penrose of Britain, Reinhard Genzel of Germany and Andrea Ghez of the United States for their breakthroughs in understanding the mysteries of cosmic black holes.

The other prizes are for outstanding work in the fields of literature, peace and economics.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News

Nobel Laureate Wants to Blast Nuclear Waste With Lasers Until It’s Safe

This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use.

Nuclear power could become increasingly important as the world continues to combat climate change, but atmospheric carbon isn’t the only existential threat to the future of humanity. The waste produced by nuclear power is dangerous for millions of years, and no one can decide what to do with it. Nobel laureate Gérard Mourou is using his notoriety to call attention to an interesting solution. Mourou believes that it may be possible to transmute nuclear waste into a safer form. This isn’t medieval alchemy, though. It’s science and lasers

Mourou shared half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics with Donna Strickland. The pair won for their work inventing a process called Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA) at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester. CPA creates very short laser pulses with ultra-high intensity. The original research focused on applications like laser machining and eye surgery, but scientists could also use it to observe atomic processes that happen at almost unfathomable speeds. If we could speed it up a bit more, Mourou says CPA could have a use in processing nuclear waste, too. 

Nuclear waste currently sits in drums in secure facilities across the world, and it’ll be dangerous for many years to come no matter where we store it. The most hazardous waste, uranium 235 and plutonium 239, have a radioactive half-life of about 24,000 years. So, these materials won’t be safe for millions of years. According to Mourou, it may be possible to turn that waste into something you can hold in your hand with a laser. 

Close up illustration of atomic particle for nuclear energy imagery. Credit: Getty Images.

Currently, CPA can produce laser pulses as brief as one attosecond — that’s a billionth of a billionth of a second. To transmute nuclear waste into something safe, Mourou says you’d need to increase the pulse rate by roughly 10,000 times. That might sound like a tall order, but CPA itself was an order of magnitude increase over previous lasers. Another innovation like CPA, and we could be in the ballpark. 

With an ultra-fast laser pulse, it may be possible to bombard nuclear waste and knock protons out of the nucleus. That turns a dangerous substance like uranium 235 into something comparatively harmless like lead. Other experts have chimed in to note that the physics makes sense on a theoretical level. However, the logistics of developing the right laser technology, separating out radioactive nuclei, and irradiating them is still beyond our reach.

Now read:

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ExtremeTechExtreme – ExtremeTech

Nobel Prize in Medicine goes to 3 scientists for discovering how cells use oxygen

Two Americans and a British scientist won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine on Monday for discovering details of how the body’s cells sense and react to low oxygen levels, providing a foothold for developing new treatments for anemia, cancer and other diseases.

Drs. William G. Kaelin Jr., of Harvard University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Gregg L. Semenza, of Johns Hopkins University, and Peter J. Ratcliffe, at the Francis Crick Institute and Oxford University, won the prize.

The scientists, who worked largely independently, will share the 9 million kronor (about $ 1.2 million Cdn) cash award, said the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

They “revealed the mechanism for one of life’s most essential adaptive processes,” the Nobel committee said.

Cells can encounter lowered oxygen not only from situations like living at high altitudes, but also from things like a wound that interferes with local blood supply. Their response triggers reactions that include producing red blood cells, generating new blood vessels and fine-tuning the immune system.


The Nobel committee said scientists are focused on developing drugs that can treat diseases by either activating or suppressing the oxygen-sensing machinery. Such manipulation could help in attacking cancer cells, experts said.

Another payoff is pills to boost production of red blood cells in anemia, which can appear in people with chronic kidney disease. One such drug has been approved in China and Japan and a filing for approval in the U.S. is expected soon, Kaelin said.

Still other potential targets include heart attack and stroke, and a condition of reduced blood flow in the limbs that can lead to amputation, the researchers said.

‘A look of urgency’

Kaelin, 61, said he was half-asleep when the phone rang Monday morning with the news of his award.

“I don’t usually get phone calls at 5:00 in the morning, so, naturally, my heart started racing and I could see the call was from Stockholm,” he said. “And so I think at that point I almost had an out-of-body type of experience.”

Kaelin is paid by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which also supports AP’s Health and Science department.


William G. Kaelin Jr. holds a model of his work as he speaks at a news conference in Boston on Monday. (Elise Amendola/The Associated Press)

Ratcliffe, 65, said he learned the news after he was summoned out of a meeting this morning by his secretary, who had “a look of urgency.”

Trained as a kidney specialist, Ratcliffe said his research began when he and colleagues simply wanted to figure out how cells sense oxygen.

“I thought it was a definable problem and just thought we’d find out how it worked,” he said. It was about two years into their research program, which began in 1990, that they realized the discovery had much wider significance, Ratcliffe said.

“We saw that it wasn’t just cells in the kidney that know how to sense oxygen, but all cells in the body.… There are hundreds and thousands of processes the body uses to adapt to and regulate its oxygen levels.”


Scientist Peter J.Ratcliffe poses for photos in the laboratory at the University in Oxford, England on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. (Frank Augstein/The Associated Press)

He said while some promising drugs have been developed, it will be years before it’s clear whether such discoveries are going to change the lives of tens of thousands.

In Baltimore, Semenza, 63, said he slept through the Nobel committee’s initial phone call. “By the time I got to the phone it was too late,” he said. He went back to sleep but was able to answer the second call from Stockholm.

He said kidney cancer may be the first malignancy in which a drug based on the prize-winning work might make chemotherapy more effective, and that he hopes many other cancers will follow.


Gregg L. Semenza speaks during a news conference at Johns Hopkins Medicine Hospital in Baltimore on Monday. (Jose Luis Magana/The Associated Press)

Speaking at a news conference at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, Semenza paid tribute to his biology teacher, Rose Nelson, at Sleepy Hollow High School in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., for inspiring his pursuit of medicine.

“She used to say, ‘Now when you win your Nobel Prize, I don’t want you to forget that you learned that here,”‘ he said. “It’s my great sadness that she is not still alive to share the moment because I know it would have meant a lot to her. She was my inspiration.”

“That’s the importance of teachers,” he added. “To make that kind of spark.”

Steven McKnight, of the UT Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas noted that the process discovered by the three researchers is widespread in the animal kingdom, found even in the worm. He said the honoured work is “of a heroic nature.”

Last year, James Allison of the United States and Tasuku Honjo of Japan won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Medicine for their work in immunotherapy, activating the body’s natural defence system to fight tumors.

Physics prize next

Monday’s announcement kicked off this year’s Nobel Prizes. The physics prize will be handed out Tuesday, followed by the chemistry prize on Wednesday. This year there is a double-header for the Nobel Literature Prize — one each for 2018 and 2019 — which will be awarded Thursday. The Peace Prize will be announced on Friday.

The 2018 Nobel Literature prize was suspended after a sex abuse scandal rocked the Swedish Academy, the body that awards the literature prizes, so two prizes are being awarded this year.

The economics prize will be awarded next Monday. Officially known as the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, it wasn’t created by Nobel, but by Riksbanken, Sweden’s central bank, in 1968.

The laureates will receive their awards at elegant ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo on Dec. 10 — the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Health News

Nobel Prize in Medicine goes to 3 scientists for discovering how cells use oxygen

Two Americans and a British scientist won the 2019 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discovering how the body’s cells sense and react to oxygen levels, work that has paved the way for new strategies to fight anemia, cancer and other diseases, the Nobel Committee said.

Doctors William G. Kaelin Jr. of Harvard University, Gregg L. Semenza of Johns Hopkins University and Peter J. Ratcliffe at the Francis Crick Institute in Britain and Oxford University will share equally the 9 million kronor (about $ 1.2 million Cdn) cash award, the Karolinska Institute said.

It is the 110th prize in the category that has been awarded since 1901.

Their work has “greatly expanded our knowledge of how physiological response makes life possible,” the committee said, explaining that the scientists identified the biological machinery that regulates how genes respond to varying levels of oxygen.

That response is key to things like producing red blood cells, generating new blood vessels and fine-tuning the immune system.


The Nobel Committee said scientists are focused on developing drugs that can treat diseases by either activating or blocking the body’s oxygen-sensing machinery.

The oxygen response is hijacked by cancer cells, for example, which stimulate formation of blood vessels to help themselves grow. And people with kidney failure often get hormonal treatments for anemia, but the work of the new laureates points the way toward new treatments, Nils-Goran Larsson of the Nobel committee told The Associated Press.

‘A bit surreal’

Reached at his home, Kaelin said he was half-asleep Monday morning when the phone rang. It was Stockholm.

“I was aware as a scientist that if you get a phone call at 5 a.m. with too many digits, it’s sometimes very good news, and my heart started racing. It was all a bit surreal,” he said.

Kaelin said he isn’t sure yet how he’ll spend the prize money but “obviously I’ll try to put it to some good cause.”

Ratcliffe told Sweden’s news agency TT on Monday that “when I started my research I also had no idea that it would result in this.”

He added the impact of oxygen on cells “has not always been a trendy area to research, and some people have doubted them during the journey.”

Last year, James Allison of the United States and Tasuku Honjo of Japan won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Medicine for their work in immunotherapy, activating the body’s natural defence system to fight tumours.

Physics prize next

Monday’s announcement kicked off this year’s Nobel Prizes. The Nobel Physics prize is handed out Tuesday, followed by the chemistry prize on Wednesday. This year’s double-header Literature Prizes — one each for 2018 and 2019 — will be awarded Thursday and the Peace Prize will be announced on Friday.

The economics prize will be awarded on Oct. 14.

The 2018 Nobel Literature prize was suspended after a sex abuse scandal rocked the Swedish Academy, the body that awards the literature prizes, so they are awarding two prizes this year.

Prize founder Alfred Nobel — a Swedish industrialist and the inventor of dynamite — decided the physics, chemistry, medicine and literature prizes should be awarded in Stockholm, and the peace prize in Oslo. He also designated the institutions responsible for the prizes: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards the Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry; the Karolinska Institute is responsible for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; the Swedish Academy picks the Nobel Prize in Literature; and a committee of five people elected by the Norwegian Parliament decides who wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

The economics prize — officially known as the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel — wasn’t created by Nobel, but by Riksbanken, Sweden’s central bank, in 1968. It is the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that was tasked with selecting the winner.

The laureates will receive their awards at elegant ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo on Dec. 10 — the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Health News

3 get Nobel Medicine prize for learning how cells use oxygen

The 2019 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to scientists William G. Kaelin, Jr, Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza for their discoveries of “how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability,” the Nobel Committee announced Monday.

The discoveries made by the three men “have fundamental importance for physiology and have paved the way for promising new strategies to fight anemia, cancer and many other diseases,” said the Karolinska Institute.

The trio — Kaelin and Semenza are Americans, and Ratcliffe is British — will share equally the 9 million kronor (around $ 1.2 million Cdn) cash award. It is the 110th prize in the category that has been awarded since 1901.

Kaelin works at Harvard, Semenza at Johns Hopkins University and Ratcliffe is at the Francis Crick Institute in Britain.

In announcing the prize, the Nobel Committee said the work by the three laureates has “greatly expanded our knowledge of how physiological response makes life possible.” The Committee said that Semenza, Ratcliffe and Kaelin found “the molecular switch for how to adapt” when oxygen levels in the body vary, noting that the most fundamental job for cells is to convert oxygen to food and that cells and tissues constantly experience changes in oxygen availability.


Thomas Perlmann, the secretary of the Nobel Committee at the Karolinska Institute, said he was able to call all three laureates Monday. But he reached Kaelin via his sister who gave him two phone numbers — the first one was a wrong number.

“He was really happy,” Perlmann told a news conference.

The announcement kicked off Nobel week. The Nobel Physics prize is handed out Tuesday and the following day is the chemistry prize.

This year’s double-header Literature Prizes — one each for 2018 and 2019 — will be awarded Thursday and the Peace Prize will be announced on Friday.

The economics prize will be awarded on Oct. 14.

The 2018 literature prize was suspended after a scandal rocked the Swedish Academy. The body plans to award it this year, along with announcing the 2019 laureate.

Prize founder Alfred Nobel — a Swedish industrialist and the inventor of dynamite — decided the physics, chemistry, medicine and literature prizes should be awarded in Stockholm, and the peace prize in Oslo.

He specifically designated the institutions responsible for the prizes: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards the Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry; the Karolinska Institute is responsible for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; the Swedish Academy picks the Nobel Prize in Literature; and a committee of five people elected by the Norwegian Parliament decides who wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

The economics prize — officially known as the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel — wasn’t created by Nobel, but by Riksbanken, Sweden’s central bank, in 1968. It is the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that was tasked with selecting the winner.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Health News

Toni Morrison, Celebrated Novelist of ‘Beloved’ and Nobel Laureate, Dies at 88

Toni Morrison, Celebrated Novelist of ‘Beloved’ and Nobel Laureate, Dies at 88 | Entertainment Tonight

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

News

Yazidi activist, Congolese doctor win Nobel Peace Prize for combating sexual violence

Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist treating victims of sexual violence in Congo, and Nadia Murad, a Yazidi human rights activist and survivor of sexual slavery by the ISIS, won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

The Norwegian Nobel committee said it had awarded them the prize for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

"Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and fighting, such war crimes," it said in its citation.

Mukwege, 63, heads the Panzi Hospital in the eastern city of Bukavu. Opened in 1999, the clinic receives thousands of women each year, many of them requiring surgery from sexual violence. Armed men tried to kill him in 2012, forcing him to temporarily leave the country.

"The importance of Dr. Mukwege's enduring, dedicated and selfless efforts in this field cannot be overstated. He has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticized the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war," the committee said in its citation.

Eastern Congo has seen more than two decades of conflict among armed groups that either sought to unseat presidents or simply grab control of a piece of the country's vast mineral wealth.

Victims of sexual violence listen during a visit by a UN official at Panzi hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu province in eastern Congo, in September 2007. (James Akena/Reuters)

Murad is an advocate for the Yazidi minority in Iraq and for refugee and women's rights in general. She is one of an estimated 3,000 Yazidi girls and women who were victims of rape and other abuses by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

"Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to wartime sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions," the committee said.

Harrowing ordeal

Murad was 21 years old in 2014 when ISIS militants attacked the village where she had grown up in northern Iraq. They killed those who refused to convert to Islam, including six of her brothers and her mother.

Murad, along with many of the other young women in her village, was taken into captivity by the militants and sold repeatedly for sex as part of ISIS's slave trade.

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to ISIS, flee toward the Syrian border on Aug. 11, 2014. (Rodi Said/Reuters)

She eventually escaped captivity with the help of a Sunni Muslim family in Mosul, the group's de facto capital in Iraq, and became an advocate for the rights of her community around the world. At 23, she was named the UN's first goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking.

"It is unacceptable for a woman to be rescued from captivity from ISIS to come and not have a place to live, to be put in refugee camps," Murad told CBC's Nahlah Ayed in a 2016 interview. "It is unacceptable for education, for people not to have education. We are a peaceful community that existed in Iraq for thousands of years and we deserve a better life."


Murad visited Canada in July 2016 and lobbied Ottawa to allow in more Yazidi refugees.

In October 2016, MPs unanimously supported a motion to bring an unspecified number of Yazidi women and girls to Canada within 120 days. In February 2017, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced the target would be 1,200 by the end of 2017.

Watch as Murad speaks on Parliament Hill in July 2016:

Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a Yazidi, and Human Rights Activist, makes an impassioned presentation to the Federal Immigration Committee asking for canada to start bringing in more Yazidi refugees. 2:27

Asked whether the #MeToo movement against sexual violence was an inspiration for this year's prize, Nobel committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen said: "MeToo and war crimes are not quite the same. But they have in common that they see the suffering of women, the abuse of women, and that it is important that women leave the concept of shame behind and speak up."

The prize is worth 9 million Swedish kronor ($ 1.29 million Cdn). It will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.

Last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner was the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

With files from CBC News and The Associated Press

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News

Rare Nobel Prize win by a woman a 'stark reminder' of sexism in physics

A woman won the Nobel Prize in Physics for the first time in 55 years. But while Tuesday's announcement is good news that could inspire young girls and women who aspire to be physicists, it highlights the sexism that endures in physics.

Canadian Donna Strickland, an associate professor in physics at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, became the third woman ever to win what is widely considered the top honour in her field. She and her former mentor, Gé​rard Mourou, split half of the $ 1.29-million award for an important discovery in the field of laser physics that led to the development of laser eye surgery to correct myopia.

American Arthur Ashkin took the other half of the award for a separate discovery in the same field. He invented "optical tweezers" that can grab tiny particles such as viruses without damaging them.

I have a hard time imagining there haven't been women worthy of the prize in those 55 years.– Christin   Wiedemann , past president of  the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology

Christin Wiedemann, a former physicist and past president of the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, said she's extremely happy for Strickland on her "well-deserved" win.

At the same time, she said, the victory highlights longstanding problems with the Nobel system.

"It was a stark reminder that it's been 55 years, and I have a hard time imagining there haven't been women worthy of the prize in those 55 years."

In response to criticism about the predominance of white male prizewinners, the Nobel Foundation is asking nominators for 2019 prizes to consider their own biases when putting forth nominations.

Nobel Prizes are the most prestigious awards on the planet. This year's announcements have further highlighted questions about why so few women have entered the pantheon, particularly in the sciences. (Fernando Vergara/Associated Press)

Strickland's win comes on the heels of an event that highlighted sexism in physics in a much different way.

On Monday, Alessandro Strumia, a high-energy physicist at Italy's University of Pisa, was suspended by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, after giving a seminar last week at a workshop on "High Energy Theory and Gender" that the organization deemed "highly offensive" and "unacceptable in any professional context."

In it, he included the quotation: "Physics was invented and built by men — it's not by invitation." He also said women were getting jobs despite having fewer scientific journal citations than men, and claimed he was passed over for a position in favour of a less qualified woman.


Wiedemann said Strumia needs to learn a little bit of history.

"Physics was very and is very much the product of the brilliant minds of men and women," she said. "Historically, of course, there's been very little room for women, first of all, to do the work, and even less room to do so in the public domain and get any public recognition."

She cited Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Lise Meitner, two women who made Nobel Prize-winning discoveries decades ago but were passed over for the award — in both cases, it was given only to their male supervisors.

"Physics has not at all been built by men," Wiedemann said, "but men have gotten all the glory in the past, and that's what we need to change."

In fact, Strickland was profoundly under-recognized prior to her Nobel Prize win. Some observers noted there wasn't even a Wikipedia entry about her until Tuesday morning.

And some questioned why she was still an associate professor instead of a full professor. When asked about that at a news conference, University of Waterloo president Feridun Hamdullahpur said there was a procedure to follow for becoming a full professor, "But I told her that she doesn't have to submit a very long CV — one line will be sufficient," drawing laughter from the audience, reported TheRecord.com.

'It's not a level playing field'

Shohini​ Ghose, a professor of physics and computer science at Wilfrid Laurier University and director of the Centre for Women in Science, said she found Strumia's remarks disappointing, especially given the evidence shows the opposite is true — that women face many types of biases and challenges.

It starts early, she said. When young students are asked to draw a scientist, for example, they tend to draw a man in a lab coat.

Pioneers of science Madame Marie Curie and her husband Pierre are shown in their lab in this undated photo. In 1903, she became the first of three women ever awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. (Associated Press)

In her own experience, she has taken courses where professors would greet the class with, "Hello, gentlemen," and faced harassment in labs that almost led her to quit.

"It's not a level playing field," she said.

According to statistics and global surveys gathered by the American Institute of Physics, women have less access to resources both to do their work and advance their careers, and the effect accumulates over time, said Rachel Ivie, director of the AIP's Statistical Research Center.

Ivie coauthored a study five years ago looking at the fact that all 57 winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics between 1990 and 2013 were men. Given the rate of physics PhDs being awarded to women, they calculated that the chance of having only male winners during that period was less than two per cent.

Ghose, who knows Strickland personally, said she thinks awarding her the Nobel is a step in the right direction.

"It's a hugely inspiring thing to see a woman recognized at the top levels for her work," she said. "I hope absolutely it does inspire young women to consider a career in physics and, generally, science."

Donna Strickland's life has changed in an instant, as she has become just the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. Today she's being celebrated across the scientific community, but her achievement is also raising some questions: Why the gender gap in science? And is there hope for change? 4:45

But both Ghose and Wiedemann say efforts to break stereotypes and barriers for women can't stop there.

"This is not a problem that can be fixed by women," Ghose said. "It's more of a structural, systemic problem, and unless we get everybody involved we're not going to be able to deal with it."​

— With files from The Associated Press

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | Health News

2 Americans, 1 British scientist win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Scientists Frances Arnold, George Smith and Gregory Winter won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for research using directed evolution to produce enzymes and antibodies for new chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the award-giving body said on Wednesday.

Arnold, only the fifth woman to win a chemistry Nobel, was awarded half of the nine million Swedish crown ($ 1.29 million Cdn) prize while fellow American Smith and Winter of Britain shared the other half.

"This year's Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have been inspired by the power of evolution and used the same principles — genetic change and selection — to develop proteins that solve mankind's chemical problems," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

Arnold is the second woman to win a Nobel Prize this year after Donna Strickland, from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, shared the physics award on Tuesday.

The uses of enzymes, developed by Arnold, include more environmentally-friendly manufacturing of chemical substances, such as pharmaceuticals, and the production of renewable fuels for a greener transport sector.


Smith developed a method using a virus that infects bacteria to produce new proteins.


Winter used the same method for the directed evolution of antibodies, with the aim of producing new pharmaceuticals.


The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were created and funded in the will of Swedish dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel and have been awarded since 1901.

For the first time in decades, the Nobel line-up will not feature a literature award this year after a rift within the Swedish Academy over a rape scandal involving the husband of a board member left it unable to select a winner.

The science and peace prizes are selected by other bodies. Chemistry is the third of this year's Nobel Prizes after the winners of the medicine and physics awards were announced earlier this week.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News