Three renowned scientists, including two 2020 Nobel Prize winners from UCLA and UC Berkeley, will engage in an illuminating online conversation about scientific research on Dec. 16 and will answer questions submitted by students and other viewers. The event will be streamed on the UCLA Connections website.
UCLA astrophysicist Andrea Ghez and UC Berkeley biochemist Jennifer Doudna have long been among the brightest luminaries in their fields, advancing knowledge that has reshaped our understanding of the universe from the cosmic to the microscopic.
In October, both were recipients of science’s most-esteemed honor. On Oct. 6, Ghez won a 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for her discovery of a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The next day, Doudna won a 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of CRISPR-Cas9, a powerful genome editing breakthrough that allows scientists to rewrite DNA in any organism, including human cells.
The pair will be joined by UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Emily Carter, whose longstanding research into reducing greenhouse gas emissions via sustainable energy technologies has made her a leading international voice on climate change mitigation, in a discussion of the science behind their Nobel-winning discoveries, their current research and the significance of their Nobel Prizes for women and youth who have a passion for science.
“The Nobel Prize is such an honor, and it comes with responsibilities and opportunities,” said Ghez, who is UCLA’s Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Professor of Astrophysics and director of the UCLA Galactic Center Group. “At every stage, someone has always said no, you can’t do this because you’re a girl. I got very used to ignoring when people said I couldn’t do something. It’s always been very important to me to encourage young women into the sciences, and the Nobel Prize provides an opportunity and a responsibility to encourage the next generation of scientists who are passionate about science.”
This virtual discussion, titled “Nobel Breakthroughs,” is free and open to the public, and attendees are strongly encouraged to submit questions when they register. “Nobel Breakthroughs” will first be shown on Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 9 a.m. PST, and can also be viewed later on UCLA Connections and YouTube.
Ghez, Doudna and Carter are all members of the National Academy of Sciences — one of the highest honors that a U.S. scientist can receive. The academy’s members have included Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.
In 2019, the journal Science published a study by Ghez and her research group that is the most comprehensive test of Albert Einstein’s iconic general theory of relativity near the monstrous black hole at the center of our galaxy. Ghez studies more than 3,000 stars that orbit the supermassive black hole. Black holes have such high density that nothing can escape their gravitational pull, not even light. The center of the vast majority of galaxies appears to have a supermassive black hole, she said.
Doudna holds the Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Chair in Biomedical and Health Sciences and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UC Berkeley. She is president and chair of the board of the Innovative Genomics Institute.
On the day she won the Nobel Prize, Doudna said, “Many women think that, no matter what they do, their work will never be recognized the way it would be if they were a man. And I think (this prize) refutes that. It makes a strong statement that women can do science, women can do chemistry, and that great science is recognized and honored. That means a lot to me personally, because I know that, when I was growing up, I couldn’t, in a million years, have ever imagined this moment.”
Carter, a distinguished professor in chemical and biomolecular engineering, is also a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.
“Professors Ghez and Doudna represent the best of scientific achievement and are exceptional role models for anyone interested in pursuing a fulfilling career in the sciences or research,” Carter said. “I am delighted to join them for a lively and informative discussion on their discoveries and plans for the future.”