The Royal Swedish Academy awarded Dr. Arieh Warshel of the USC David and Dana Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for spearheading extensive research on chemical processes.
USC hosted a press conference at Town and Gown on Wednesday morning in response to the announcement.
“[Professor Warshel] is a shining star in our academic community — a man whose groundbreaking ideas and innovative insights give guidance to the scientific community worldwide,” USC President C. L. Max Nikias said at the press conference.
Warshel’s triumph marks the fourth Nobel Prize awarded to a member of the USC faculty. Previously, Daniel McFadden, George A. Olah and Murray Gell-Mann won the award for economic sciences, chemistry and physics, respectively.
Warshel believes the honor will encourage others to pursue science.
“The field itself is very inspiring. The prize gives notoriety to chemistry,” he told the Daily Trojan.
Warshel’s work has the potential to help find a cure to devastating diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Nikias believes Wednesday’s announcement is yet another reason for the Trojans to be proud of their community.
“The academic quality of USC, overall, can only go up,” Nikias told the Daily Trojan.
At the press conference, Olah, a professor of organic chemistry, stood and addressed Warshel.
“It is very rewarding that you are being recognized for work that is done here,” Olah said at the press conference. “You are a homegrown product of this university.”
Warshel, who shares his award with Harvard University professor Martin Karplus and Stanford University professor Michael Levitt, has conducted research for his project since 1976.
All three winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry are of Israeli heritage. David Siegel, consul general of Israel in Los Angeles, was elated to hear the news.
“Israel has 12 Nobel Prizes, six of them in science. [Many] of them [are] done in collaboration with American research institutes — USC, specifically,” Siegel said. “There’s so much going on in Israel in terms of science that is important for humanity.”
Warshel said he plans to continue research in the same field in order to solve more chemical systems problems.
Warshel will share the $1.2 million prize for the award with his two colleagues. When asked what he will do with it, he was unsure.
“You can ask my wife,” he said at the press conference.
Students in the sciences were excited for what Warshel’s win could mean for USC.
“Winning a Nobel Prize is a global honor, and it’s a huge deal for USC and the chemistry department to have another Nobel laureate on the staff,” said Dylan Lee, a freshman majoring in chemical engineering. “It’s a great personal achievement for him because he’s put work into the research for many years.”
Others were excited for the influence Warshel’s work would have in fields other than chemistry.
“His research goes beyond just chemistry and has far-reaching implications for the pharmaceutical industry. It’s great for USC because it shows that staff members here conduct and are rewarded for research at the highest level,” said Moriah Mulroe, a sophomore majoring in environmental engineering. “I imagine it’s a great feeling to wake up in the morning and find out you’re a Nobel laureate.”
Warshel will accept his award on Dec. 10 in Stockholm, but he will receive more than just recognition and a monetary reward; the university is granting him free parking for the rest of his tenure.
“I have already instructed the transportation department of USC to assign you a parking spot and refund you what you have paid for this year,” Nikias told Warshel.