The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017
Born: 8 June 1942, Aigle, Switzerland
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
Prize motivation: "for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution."
Prize share: 1/3
Jacques Dubochet was born in Aigle, Switzerland. He studied physics at École Polytechnique at the University of Lausanne and subsequently molecular biology at the University of Geneva. He completed his doctoral thesis on biophysics at the University of Geneva and the University of Basel in 1973. From 1978 to 1987 he worked at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg and later at the University of Lausanne.
Fundamental processes of life are governed by a number of complicated molecules. The electron microscope, which uses electron beams instead of light, expands the possibilities to image these molecules. However, many biological molecules depend on water, which evaporates in the vacuum of an electron microscope. In the early 1980s Jean Dubochet succeeded in cooling the water so rapidly that it solidified around the molecules without the formation of distorting ice crystals. Electron microscope images provide knowledge that is important for the development of pharmaceuticals, among other things.