Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013

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Winners and Who They Are

Martin Karplus

•Born- March,15,1930/ Vienna, Austria [2]

•Education- California Institute of Technology, Harvard University [2]

•Place of Work When Award was Issued- Université de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France/Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA [2]

•Scientific Field- bio/physical/theoretical chemistry [2]

•Interesting Fact- Was 8 years old when his parents fled from Nazi occupied Austria in 1938, taking him and his brother to Zurich, then after several months, to America. [1]

Michael Levitt

•Born- May,9,1947/ Pretoria, South Africa [3]

•Education- University of Cambridge/ King’s College London

•Place of Work When Award was Issued- Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA [3]

•Scientific Field- bio/physical/theoretical chemistry [3]

•Interesting Facts- Triple citizen (U.S., U.K., Israel)

Arieh Warshel

•Born- November,20,1940/ Kibbutz, Israel [4]

•Education- Weizmann Institute of Science/ Israel Institute of Technology

•Place of Work When Award was Issued- University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA [4]

•Scientific Field- bio/physical/theoretical chemistry [4]

•Interesting Facts- Fought in the Six Day War, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and earned the rank of Captain in the IDF [5]

What They Did and the Results

  • Starting in the 1970’s, Karplus, Levitt, and Warshel began work on a program to model enzymes on the chemical level with more accuracy.

  • Using previously observed reactions, they refined the program further to better model other chemical reactions.

  • In 2013, the scientists created the most efficient and accurate way to measure the energy and electrons around atoms in any part of a complex molecule.

Why They Won

They developed a more accurate way to model what goes on in a chemical reaction at specific places and times using computers.

What made this contribution so important?

  • In chemistry, there are two different mechanisms at work during reactions: quantum mechanics and classical mechanics.
  • Quantum mechanics deals with the smallest possible unit of something e.g. atoms are the smallest units of chemicals.
  • Classical mechanics focus on forces that act on everyday objects using Newton’s laws. [6]
  • They presented a method where the two are combined to give a much more accurate way to predict what happens to individual atoms in a reaction.

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Future impact?

  • Created a basis for which computer programs could be developed to model rapid events in chemistry.
  • Chemists use computers now just as much as the laboratory.

Currently used?

Powerful computers use programs to predict chemical reactions and more accurately model molecules and atoms.

Did it challenge previous knowledge?

  • Didn't challenge previous knowledge but made new knowledge more accessible.
  • Previous methods in quantum mechanics and classical mechanics were combined to create completely new algorithms that chemists never used.
  • Chemists had to choose either quantum or classical physics, but new method gives chemists more advantages.



[1] "SPINACH ON THE CEILING: A Theoretical Chemist's Return to Biology." Annual Reviews. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Jan. 2016. <>.

[2] "Martin Karplus - Facts". Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 5 Jan 2016. <>

[3] "Michael Levitt - Facts". Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 5 Jan 2016. <>

[4] "Arieh Warshel - Facts". Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 6 Jan 2016. <>

[5] Method and Results-Adri"3 Jewish Professors — Two of Them Israeli — Share 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry." The Times of Israel. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2016. <>

[6] Coolman, By Robert. "What Is Classical Mechanics?" LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 12 Sept. 2014. Web. 06 Jan. 2016. <>.