2008 EDSEL-Nobel in Chemistry

October 1, 2008 at 11:07 am | | EDSELs, nobel, science community

Well, its that time of year again. Nobels will be rolling out soon! Carbon-Based Curiosities has already awarded their CBC Nobel to Krzysztof Matyjasewski of CMU. I endorse this choice, because I have a scientific connection to Kris: My undergrad lab collaborated with him very closely. I even have a paper with both our names on it! So I’d be happy if he won.

But I’ll award the EDSEL-Nobel to someone else, if just to be a contrarian. One thing I promise: I’m not going to put much thought into this.

A few people are unjustly disqualified from this competition: Roger Tsien (too obvious); W.E. Moerner (my PI, wouldn’t be fair); Barry Trost (who?); and myself (because the truths I have revealed in my research would just rip open everybody’s minds!). Some of the criteria I used to judge included: the person’s name size on my CUL author cloud; their index (which is my new citation index, defined as the person’s h index divided by 2π in order to account for self-referencing); and the extent to which I actually believe their reported results.

This year’s EDSEL-Nobel goes jointly to Peter Schultz (Scripps) and Carolyn Bertozzi (Berkeley) for “their applications of click chemistry to something practical: totally messing with cells and making them glow and stuff.”

Schultz has introduced azide/alkyne (and many other) unnatural amino acids into the genetic machinery, thus inserting a specific site for labeling with fluorphores or other probes. Here’s a good Schultz review paper. Bertozzi feeds cells unnatural sugars that have “bioorthogonal” reactive groups (click or otherwise). Here’s a good Bertozzi review paper. Other labs have actually applied these techniques for successful labeling and biophysics experiments. And I suspect their techniques will become streamlined and more broadly accessible in the future. Or maybe not and I awarded this prize prematurely.

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