Renowned Nobel Laureate Delivers Public Lectures

South African born Nobel Laureate and biophysicist, Prof Michael Levitt, delivered a series of public lectures hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) at several universities in November 2017. Levitt, who is a Distinguished Visiting Scholar of ASSAf was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry when he shared it with Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel.

He is a Professor of structural biology at Stanford University, a position he has held since 1987.

His diverse interests have included RNA and DNA modelling, protein folding simulation, classification of protein folds and protein geometry, antibody modelling, X-ray refinement, antibody humanisation, side-chain geometry, torsional normal mode, molecular dynamics in solution, secondary structure prediction, aromatic hydrogen bonds, structure databases, and mass spectrometry. Current work focuses on protein evolution, the crystallographic phase problem and Cryo-EM refinement.  

He has a passion for helping today’s young scientists gain the recognition and independence that his generation enjoyed. 

His lectures highlighted the development of multi-scale models for complex chemical systems which began in 1967 with publications by Warshel and Levitt and which were recognised by the 2013 Nobel Committee for Chemistry. The simplifications used then at the dawn of the age of computational structural biology were mandated by computers that were almost a billion times less cost-effective than those we use today. These same multi-scale models have become increasingly popular in application that range from simulation of atomic protein motion, to protein folding and explanation of enzyme catalysis. In this lecture, Levitt describes the origins computational structural biology and then shows some of the most exciting current and future applications.

The public lectures were delivered at the six universities.