Today in Washington, D.C. 2014 American Nobel Prize winners will gather at the Embassy of Sweden for the Annual Nobel Laureate Symposium to share stories of their discoveries. Dr. John O'Keefe who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and is a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London will be one of the speakers. In the early 1970's he discovered place cells, neurons within the hippocampus that become active when one enters a particular place in the environment, much like a GPS system in the brain. He then proposed the hippocampus as a cognitive map for spatial memory. His work currently focuses on computational models to predict hippocampal function.
Also at the Symposium will be jointly awarded chemistry Nobel recipients Dr. William E. Moerner of Stanford University and Dr. Eric Betzig from Howard Hughes Medical Institute for their development of super-resolved fluoroescence miscroscopy. Their method allows for the creation of 'super images' with a resolution of nanometers, or billionths of a meter, turning microscopy into 'nanoscopy'. Their achievement is seen as truly pioneering because "scientists can now visualize the pathways of individual molecules inside living cells,” said the National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins. “Researchers can see how molecules create synapses between nerve cells in the brain and they can track proteins involved in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases.
The fourth Noble Laurete speaker is Dr. Shuji Nakamura Professor of Materials, Electrical, and Computer Engineering at the University of California who received his Nobel Prize in chemistry for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes enabling bright and energy-saving light sources, triggering a fundamental transformation of lighting technology. Although red and green diodes have been around for a long time blue LED remained a challenge for 3 decades, and as a result white lamps couldn't be created. Now that white LED lamps are in existence the result of this could be an increased quality of life for over 1.5 billion people around the world who lack access to electricity grids. To quote Dr. Namakura on his acceptance of the award, "I am very honored to receive the Nobel Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science for my invention of the blue LED and blue laser. It is very satisfying to see that my dream of LED lighting has become a reality. I hope that energy-efficient LED light bulbs will help reduce energy use and lower the cost of lighting worldwide."