Chicago Native Awarded Share of Nobel Prize For Chemistry

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Oct 9, 2008 4:00PM

2008_10_09_chalfie.jpgScrew the Cubs and Sox; Chicago is racking up some real honors this week. Following University of Chicago Prof. Yoichiro Nambu winning a share of the Nobel Prize for Physics earlier this week comes news that Chicago native (and Niles East High School grad) Martin Chalfie has been awarded a share of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with Osamu Shimomura and Roger Y. Tsien, "for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP." Malfie discovered he had been recgonized when he checked the Nobel website to see who earned the award. "I said, 'I wonder what schnook won?' When I looked at my laptop and saw my name, I woke up my wife and said, 'I think you have to look at this.'" Chalfie is currently a geneticist at New York's Columbia University. Chalfie is the now-closed Niles East High's second Nobel winner; Robert Horvitz (then at MIT) was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize for Medicine.

According to the Nobel press release, this year's chemistry awards revolved around green fluorescent protein.

The remarkable brightly glowing green fluorescent protein, GFP, was first observed in the beautiful jellyfish, Aequorea victoria in 1962. Since then, this protein has become one of the most important tools used in contemporary bioscience. With the aid of GFP, researchers have developed ways to watch processes that were previously invisible, such as the development of nerve cells in the brain or how cancer cells spread...

Martin Chalfie demonstrated the value of GFP as a luminous genetic tag for various biological phenomena. In one of his first experiments, he coloured six individual cells in the transparent roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans with the aid of GFP.

Check out the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences report on the matter here. [PDF]

Photo of Chalfie from his Columbia Univ. faculty bio page