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Nobels go to maps, LEDs, microscopy

Research at boundaries of disciplines garners prizes

10:31am, October 10, 2014
human cancer cell splits into two

IN THE ACT  A cancer cell’s chromosomes pull apart in an image made with a method pioneered by a Nobel-winning researcher.

As if to recognize that walls separating scientific fields are falling, the 2014 Nobel Prizes in chemistry, physics and physiology or medicine went to discoveries that defy single-discipline labels.

“Biology has turned into chemistry. Chemistry has turned into biology,” says Sven Lidin, chairman of the chemistry Nobel committee. This year’s chemistry laureates developed microscopy techniques that allow researchers to peer into the depths of cells, watch neurons shift shapes in learning brains and glimpse clumped-together proteins in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s (SN: 6/15/13, p. 20).

In 2000, chemistry winner Stefan Hell of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and colleagues shot lasers at fluorescent molecules. The first laser lit up a wide

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