In Stockholm, Nobel laureates acknowledge those who helped them along the way

Brian K. Kobilka received his Nobel Prize at the Stockholm Concert Hall, Dec. 10, 2012. Copyright © Nobel Media AB 2012 Photo: Alexander Mahmoud

Last week, Stanford’s newest Nobel Prize winners, ALVIN ROTH and BRIAN KOBILKA, were in Stockholm for the culmination of the magical two months since their prizes were announced.

The Nobel festivities, which began last Wednesday, included lectures, interviews and symposia, a concert and the Nobel Prize Banquet.

In his lecture on Dec. 8, Kobilka, professor and chair of molecular and cellular physiology at the School of Medicine, explained his research on G-protein-coupled receptors. Kobilka shares his Nobel chemistry prize with ROBERT J. LEFKOWITZ, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the Duke University Medical Center.

At the conclusion of his lecture, Kobilka thanked his wife, TONG SUN KOBILKA, a research associate in molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford, whom he described as a  “colleague, friend, collaborator and great mother.”

“If you have read anything about me, you know that she is key to any success I’ve had,” he said. He also thanked the students and postdoctoral fellows in his lab and many of his colleagues, including BILL WEIS, a professor of structural biology at Stanford.

Alvin E. Roth receives his Prize from His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the Stockholm Concert Hall, Dec. 10, 2012. Copyright © Nobel Media AB 2012 Photo: Alexander Mahmoud

Roth, an economist and visiting professor who officially joins Stanford’s economics faculty in January, gave a banquet speech in addition to his Nobel lecture. Roth shares his Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with LLOYD SHAPLEY, professor emeritus of mathematics at UCLA.

“We all know the wonderful image popularized by Isaac Newton, of how he could see so far only because he stood on the shoulders of giants. That image describes well how my work has built on that of my predecessors, particularly Lloyd Shapley, with whom I share this prize, and the late DAVID GALE,” Roth said in his banquet speech.

“We need a different metaphor to capture how we benefit from our teachers, our contemporaries, our colleagues and coauthors and students. …

“My point is that in the midst of this beautiful celebration of scientific and literary accomplishment, let’s pause over dinner to remember one of the fundamental lessons of economics: that accomplishments are social as well as singular. Let’s revel in the memories not only of discovery and invention, but of all the sometimes illuminating, sometimes stressful, sometimes tedious, and sometimes thrilling human interactions that brought us here tonight, and will inspire and fortify us when we return to work.”

The Nobel website features videos of the lectures, photos and even the banquet menu. Visit http://nobelprize.org.

—ELAINE RAY