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Nobel Prizes in a Nutshell

Given Six Minutes Each, Six Professors Explain Six Nobel Prizes

Explaining the Nobel Prize-winning research of two physicists to Yeshiva University students on October 19, Dr. Gabriel Cwilich, associate professor of physics and division coordinator of natural and mathematical sciences at Yeshiva College, said, “There is more than one way to skin a quantum cat."

James Kahn explains the Nobel Prize-winning economic research of Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley at the annual Nobel Prize Nanosecond Party.

Speaking at the annual YU Nobel Prize Nanosecond Party, Cwilich was referring to the research of Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland, who were jointly awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics for their groundbreaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems. The event, organized by Dr. Neer Asherie, associate professor of physics and biology, gives six professors six minutes each to present the work of Nobel laureates in their field to students.

“I wanted to give students, staff and faculty an informative and entertaining introduction to Nobel prize-winning work,” said Asherie. “The format was designed to encourage people with different backgrounds to attend. While a student may be not be eager to listen to an hour-long talk in a field he knows little about, his curiosity might be sufficiently piqued to come to a Nanosecond Party.”

In areas that included chemistry, medicine, economics, literature and peace, professors summarized revolutionary research and forecasted its impact on the future, whether that meant the eventual invention of quantum computers, new treatment options for patients with liver or heart disease or the globalization of culture.

“This year’s prize raises the question, what is the intersection between art and politics?” said Dr. Gillian Steinberg, associate professor of English, who spoke about the Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to Chinese author Mo Yan. She noted that most responses to the award focused on Mo’s political background and the ramifications of granting China a coveted prize in the humanities, rather than his writing, which weaves social commentary and magical realism into modern Chinese fiction.

“It’s an interesting direction for literature to be taken because we like to think of literature as a pure art form that doesn’t get dragged down by the sordid realities of the world,” said Steinberg. “I think the discussion around Mo Yan’s prize underscores how untrue that assumption is.”

Other presenters at the Nanosecond Party included Dr. Daniel Lim, assistant professor of chemistry, on the work of chemistry prize-winners Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka; Dr. Yaakov Peter, assistant professor of biology, on the work of Sir John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka in physiology or medicine; Dr. James Kahn, Henry and Bertha Kressel University Professor of Economics and chair of the economics department, on prize winners Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley in economic sciences; and Dr. Linda Brown, assistant professor of philosophy, on the Peace Prize, which was awarded to the European Union.

The event was co-sponsored by the Chemistry Club, Physics Club, Pre-Medical Society, Biology Major Boards, Undergraduate Student Research Presentations, Yeshiva College Student Association and the National Science Foundation.