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‘Creative and original’: Two former Berkeley Lab scientists win Nobel Prizes

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Former Berkeley Lab scientists pioneer new insights worthy of two Nobel prizes, awarded in chemistry and physics.


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OCTOBER 06, 2022

Carolyn Bertozzi and John Clauser — two former Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab, scientists — were awarded Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics, respectively, this week.

Clauser, who was also a former postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, was awarded the Nobel in physics with two other scientists for pioneering work on entangled quantum states. Bertozzi, current Stanford chemistry professor and the eighth woman to win a Nobel Prize in chemistry, shared the award with two colleagues for developing a method to explore biological processes in cells without altering their basic chemistry.

“We had no methods for this before Bertozzi discovered and developed such methods,” said Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, a member of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry and a Chalmers University of Technology professor, in an email. “It’s been a long effort for her and her students, but they did not give up and here they are with success.”

Specifically, Bertozzi’s prizewinning research revolves around “bioorthogonal chemistry” — a term she coined herself — according to Wittung-Stafshede. In addition to being an outspoken advocate for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, Bertozzi is an adept scientist who brought click reactions into the study of living organisms and their biological processes, Wittung-Stafshede added.

Bertozzi’s research was integral to a key component of the research conducted at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, according to Jeff Neaton, associate laboratory director of Berkeley Lab’s Energy Sciences Area.

“Carolyn put the Foundry on the map,” said Bruce Cohen, a staff scientist in the Foundry’s Biological Nanostructures facility, in an email. “She oversaw the opening of the facility, which is a major administrative and scientific feat. Bertozzi is so creative and original, as well as technically on point, and it opened up entire new areas of study.”

Clauser and his colleagues’ research is equally groundbreaking in the realm of entangled quantum states according to a press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Clauser, Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger studied how separated particles can still behave like a single unit, laying the foundation for future research regarding how technology can use quantum information.

In other words, according to the press release, research from the three scientists has offered more insight into the rules that dictate how two particles can interact with one another, even over long distances.

“It has become increasingly clear that a new kind of quantum technology is emerging,” said Anders Irbäck, [Chair] *chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics, in a press release. “We can see that the laureates’ work with entangled states is of great importance, even beyond the fundamental questions about the interpretation of quantum mechanics.”

Natasha Kaye, Ria Raniwala and Jackie Valdez also contributed to this article.

Contact Katherine Shok and Aditya Katewa at [email protected].

OCTOBER 07, 2022