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UD faculty experts to explain this year’s prize-winning work on Nov. 9-10

The College of Arts and Sciences’ annual Nobel Prize Symposium continues in a new format on Monday-Tuesday, Nov. 9 and 10, with a virtual, two-part series of talks by University of Delaware faculty experts who will discuss the work that won the prestigious international awards for 2020.

Each year, the free public event provides its audience with a more comprehensive description of the work and the laureates honored by the Nobel organization than is available in general media coverage. Faculty members share their expertise on the subjects in short talks that are designed for a lay audience. 

John Jungck, professor of biological sciences and mathematical sciences, and one of the organizers of this year’s event, said the symposium highlights both the prize-winning work and the high level of research and scholarship conducted at UD, much of it related to that of the Nobel laureates.

“This annual event has served as an important interdisciplinary forum to catalyze discussion across disciplines because the ramifications of each prize have import for so many
cultural, ethical and political issues,” he said.

Faculty from four of UD’s colleges are represented among the symposium’s six speakers.

This year’s event, which will be offered online to comply with coronavirus (COVID-19) health and safety precautions, will continue the tradition of allowing time for audience members to ask questions of the speakers.

Jungck and co-organizer Karen Rosenberg, professor of anthropology, will introduce each of the speakers and will select and present questions from those submitted by the audience.

Following is a schedule of the prizes and the speakers and their topics. Each series of talks begins at 7 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 9:

Chemistry — Jeff Mugridge, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, will speak about the work of Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna, who discovered the CRISPR/Cas9 “genetic scissors” that allow for genome editing. “The genetic scissors have taken the life sciences into a new epoch and, in many ways, are bringing the greatest benefit to humankind,” according to the Nobel Prize organization. 

Literature — Devon Miller-Duggan, assistant professor of English, will discuss the work of American poet Louise Glück, who has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and published 12 collections of poetry and several books of essays on poetry. The Nobel organization cited “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”

Physiology or Medicine — Mark Parcells, professor of animal and food sciences, will explain the discovery of the hepatitis C virus by Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice. Before their work, most cases of blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem, were unexplained. Now, the Nobel organization said, their discovery “has made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives.”

Tuesday, Nov. 10

Peace — Lindsay Naylor, assistant professor of geography and spatial sciences, discussing the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to the World Food Program, the world’s largest organization addressing hunger and food insecurity. In announcing the award, the Nobel organization said: “The link between hunger and armed conflict is a vicious circle: War and conflict can cause food insecurity and hunger, just as hunger and food insecurity can cause latent conflicts to flare up and trigger the use of violence.”

Physics — Federica Bianco, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, explaining the discoveries made by Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez about black holes. Penrose discovered that “black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity,” according to the Nobel announcement, while Genzel and Ghez discovered that an object believed to be a supermassive black hole is at the center of our galaxy.

Economics — Jeremy Tobacman, associate professor of economics, speaking about the research conducted by Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson that has led to improvements in auction theory and the invention of new auction formats. “The new auction formats are a beautiful example of how basic research can subsequently generate inventions that benefit society,” the award announcement said. 

For more information about the symposium and how to attend virtually, visit this website.

This article contains information from the Nobel Prize organization.


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