Sometime back I took one of these cutesy online tests – this time it was a "Nerd Test" to see how nerdy I am. I don’t dare give you the score, but look at it this way – I keep a blog. That should say enough. As I read the questions, it occured to me that one was missing. "Have you ever associated with a Nobel Prize winner?" Associated, no, but I have had a drink with Harry Gray, who won the Nobel in Chemistry in 1992. He was giving a talk at Furman, and we all went to Al’s Pumphouse afterwards.
Laura, on the other hand, can now say that she has had drinks with THREE Nobel Prize winners. Robert Grubbs (another Caltech professor), Richard Schrock from MIT, and Yves Chauvin of Institut Français du PÃ©trole were announced as winners of the 2005 prize yesterday. Laura has met both Schrock and Grubbs on numerous occasions, and gave out a yell when she heard the prize announced.
The three were awarded the prize for developing a process called metathesis. I wouldn’t know how to begin describing it, and the newspaper didn’t do a very good job, either. It just said that…
"Metathesis reactions are an important tool in the creatino of new drugs to fight many of the world’s maor diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s and AIDS," said William F. Carroll Jr., president of the American Chemical Society.
Interesting comment, considering that the prize was given for work usually considered "pure research". According to Laura, the prize committee focused on work that exemplified basic scientific inquiry – research that is done not to create a product or solve a specific problem, but is done simply to further the body of scientific knowledge. As governments and corporations slash budgets for research that is not goal or product driven, this award points out that basic research lays the foundations for these discoveries.