I’ve been excited to see the research topics which have been recognized with Nobel prizes this year.
The Medicine prize is for work on the development of stem cells, which has an incredible potential, and for me signifies a kind of optimism, a way of starting again, of making cells which exhibit infinite possibilities. I don’t understand all the technical details, but from what I see stem cells can give rise to a whole new style of treatment. The prize seems particularly needed to counter the pressure this kind of work is under from certain reactionary forces… And of course, I am personally pleased with this recognition because the development of stem cells allows all sorts of reprogramming of cells, and makes my budding research in synthetic biology all the more relevant.
The prize in Chemistry is another one which I was very pleased to hear about. When I was still a young biologist I was particularly interested in cell membranes, and how, far from being boring monotonous surfaces, are an incredible hive of activitiy. My undergraduate project was about a membrane protein which acted as a cation pore, but I was aware since then of these much more complex protein structures called GPCRs, and how they are crucial in ensuring cells do what they are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it. Signalling is such a fundamental part of cell biology. I was pleased to have worked a little bit in the domain of signalling (though not via GPCRs) when working with the behaviour of myxobacteria. Now I am wanting to go back and read more about signalling and try to convince someone to work with me on computational aspects of this!
The Physics prize has also been announced — and quantum computing is one of those hot, crazy ideas which might, just might work out (you can see I am a bit skeptical) but good to see the committee giving this area a nod. Literature and Peace get a lot more coverage, and they have a political angle which doesn’t interest me too much. But the science prizes have been really fantastic this year and I look forward to talking about these research areas with others who have also been reminded of these great ideas.