Physics Nobel for Optical Tweezers, Enabled Single Molecule DNA Work

The 2018 Nobel Prize for Physics has been awarded to Arthur Ashkin of Bell Labs, Gérard Mourou, École Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France
and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Donna Strickland, University of Waterloo, Canada for work on laser pulses that led to the development of “optical tweezers” that use lasers to manipulate small objects. 

The invention of optical tweezers made it possible for UC Davis biologists led by Professor Stephen Kowalczykowski and the late Professor Ron Baskin to design experiments where they could manipulate and observe single DNA molecules being copied in real time. In 2001, they used optical tweezers to move a tiny bead with a piece of DNA attached under a microscope, where they could watch a helicase enzyme unwind the DNA — the first step to copying or repairing it.

Physics Nobel for topological phase transitions

The 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics will be shared by David Thouless, F. Duncan Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz for their work on peculiar states of matter under extreme conditions. The three used advanced mathematics — specifically topology, the study of shapes — to build theoretical models of matter. Their work has practical implications for understanding superconductors, superfluids and thin magnetic films, and ultimately for new types of devices and technologies.

“This year’s Laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states,” according to the Nobel Prize citation.

UC Davis physicist praises 2015 Nobel prize for neutrinos

The sun, as seen in neutrinos captured by the Super-K experiment in Japan (R. Svoboda and K. Gordan).

The sun, as seen in neutrinos captured by the Super-K experiment in Japan (R. Svoboda and K. Gordan).

Robert Svoboda contributed to Nobel-winning neutrino experiments

By Becky Oskin

Billions of mysterious particles called neutrinos bombard your body every day. But catching even one neutrino is a huge effort. Nearly all neutrinos pass through people — and even our planet Earth — without a trace.

“There are 65 million neutrinos going through your thumbnail every second,” said Robert Svoboda, a UC Davis physics professor who has studied neutrinos for more than 25 years. “Only one will stop in your body during your lifetime.”

UC Davis experts praise Nobel Chemistry prize for DNA repair

“Terrific,” “Amazing news,” “Excellent choice,” were some of the terms two UC Davis experts in DNA repair used to describe the award of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Chemistry to three pioneers of the field this morning. The recipients are:  Tomas Lindal, Francis Crick Institute, London; Paul Modrich, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University; and Aziz Sancar of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

“They discovered that DNA in your body, which suffers from millions of DNA damaging events from every day due to normal chemical processes, is repaired efficiently by remarkably complex and disparate sets of repair machineries and mechanisms,” said Stephen Kowalczykowski, distinguished professor of microbiology and molecular genetics in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences.

UC Davis graduate student to attend Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting

By Derrick Bang

Christopher Chapman, a Ph.D. student in the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering, has been selected to attend the 65th annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, taking place June 28-July 3 in Lindau, Germany. Chapman will join a U.S. delegation of roughly 55 “young researchers,” as they’re designated by the Lindau committee.

Christopher Chapman, a PhD student in the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering

The U.S. delegation will be among the Lindau Meeting’s approximately 650 global student and postdoctoral researchers from all three natural science Nobel Prize disciplines: medicine and physiology, physics, and chemistry. They’ll meet and confer with the 65 Nobel Laureates who will gather to interact with this next generation of leading scientists and researchers.

Medicine Nobel: How the brain makes sense of place

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to three neuroscientists, John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser, for their discoveries of brain cells that allow us to make sense of place and location and navigate our environment.

In 1971, O’Keefe, then working at University College London, identified “place cells” in an area of the brain called the hippocampus. In rats, specific place cells activated when a rat was in a specific location, making up a map of the room inside the rat’s brain.

More than 30 years later, the Mosers discovered “grid cells,” that allow our brains to create coordinates and navigate between points.

New natural mosquito repellent discovered

A southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, after lunch.

A southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, after lunch.

Two recent papers by Professor Walter Leal, Dept. of Molecular and Cell Biology could have far-reaching consequences for both mosquito and moth control. But perhaps the most exciting outcome of the work is his serendipitous discovery of a naturally occurring chemical that repels mosquitoes and could lead to effective, non-toxic protection from their disease-carrying bites.

The first paper, published Oct. 28 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on the southern house mosquito’s sense of smell. Leal’s team identifies a large repertoire of olfactory genes through next-generation genetic sequencing.

Chemistry Nobel for molecular dynamics

Completing this year’s science Nobels, the prize for chemistry goes to Martin Karplus, University of Strasbourg and Harvard University; Michael Levitt, Stanford University; and Arieh Warshel, University of Southern California, “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”

The three scientists pioneered a method called molecular dynamics, where Newton’s Laws of motion are solved in time steps for an ensemble of many atoms, said William Casey, professor of chemistry at UC Davis.

“This method is now very wide spread and geochemists employ it a lot,” he said.

Physics Nobel for Higgs boson: How UC Davis contributed

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to theorists Peter Higgs of the University of Edinburgh, U.K. and Francois Englert of the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium, for developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives elementary particles mass.

UC Davis scientists are among the many others who have played a significant role in advancing the theory and in discovering the particle that proves the existence of the Higgs field, the Higgs boson.

Cellular traffic system wins 2013 Medicine Nobel

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to James Rothman, Yale University; Randy Schekman, UC Berkeley; and Thomas Suedhof, Stanford University, for their independent work uncovering the system of vesicles, or tiny bubbles, used to move proteins or other molecules around inside cells. It’s a fundamental discovery with far-reaching consequences for understanding disease.

“Through their discoveries, Rothman, Schekman and Südhof have revealed the exquisitely precise control system for the transport and delivery of cellular cargo. Disturbances in this system have deleterious effects and contribute to conditions such as neurological diseases, diabetes, and immunological disorders,” wrote the Nobel committee, in a news release.