“This is the best tool to see how molecules are working”
Transcript of the telephone interview with Arieh Warshel following the announcement of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on 9 October 2013. The interviewer is Nobelprize.org’s Adam Smith.
[AS] Oh hello may I speak to Arieh Warshel please?
[AS] Hello my name’s Adam Smith, calling from Nobelprize.org, the website of the Nobel Prize in Stockholm.
[AS] We have a tradition of recording very short interviews with new Laureates. Could we speak for just a couple of minutes?.
[AW] Of course, yes.
[AS] Thank you very much. Well first of all congratulations on the award of the Nobel Prize.
[AW] Thank you, thank you very much
[AS] What were you doing when the call from Stockholm came?
[AW] I was sleeping! It’s two o’clock, so it’s traditional to sleep here.
[AS] Did you wake up enough to realise what was happening immediately?
[AW] Once my wife said … once I heard the phone I realised that it could be either a prank or a call from the Committee.
[AS] (laughs) And what was your first reaction on hearing the news?
[AW] I was … really, really happy.
[AS] It must be very nice to be linked together with Martin Karplus, and particularly Michael Levitt, with whom you’ve worked so closely.
[AW] Yes, particularly with Mike, yes.
[AS] Because you two follow similar paths, travelling around and collaborating very closely.
[AW] Yes, since the late sixties, yes. We travel a lot and we are very good friends.
[AS] You’re part of quite an extraordinary scientific family tree. You were, for instance, a postdoc in Martin Karplus’ lab and he worked with Linus Pauling, so it goes back, doesn’t it?
[AW] Yeah, also my PhD mentor ‘postdoc’d’ for Peter Debye.
[AS] Indeed, indeed. And do you think all that matters? Do you think it’s all very important in pushing one in the right direction?
[AW] Um, not in my case, because I never knew which direction to take (laughs), so … when I moved to the MRC [Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge UK] (it was ’75), it helped to push in this direction, but originally, I’m not sure.
[AS] So we just spoke to Michael Levitt and he was saying how people still don’t really realise how important computers are in science, not just in analysis, but in experimentation.
[AW] Correct. They not only don’t realise, they essentially …some of them have strong objections to them, they believed that computers could be used only to [line breaks up] movies, but not to understand.
[AW] The major … there is a major difficulty to see that this is the best tool we have [to see how] molecules are working.
[AS] And so do you think the award of the Nobel Prize will help promote the cause, if you like?
[AW] Absolutely. I think that, like in the field of understanding enzymes, it’s extremely convenient to ignore careful computations, but once they get their notoriety, it will become much clearer that this is … I keep writing … it’s the best tool to understand what really happens inside the biological molecule. Yes, so I think it will help enormously
[AS] Thank you, thank you. And then, may I just ask you, who were you proudest about telling the news to? (laughs)
[AW] Em. I think my wife but she heard it before me and … No, I think just my family
[AS] That’s fine, that’s a lovely answer. Okay, thank you so much. Once again, congratulations, and I hope you have a wonderful day. Thank you
[AW] Thank you very much
[AS] Pleasure. Thank you
Listen to the Interview
Did you find any typos in this text? We would appreciate your assistance in identifying any errors and to let us know. Thank you for taking the time to report the errors by sending us an e-mail.