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Primitive space objects and protein folding take Shaw prizes

The Shaw Prize Medal

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Two European and three US-based scientists have shared this year’s three Shaw prizes, each worth US$1 million. The prizes were established in 2004 by Hong Kong media mogul Run Run Shaw (who turns 105 in November) and are given for astronomy, life sciences and medicine, and mathematics, in recognition of those whose breakthroughs have “resulted in a positive and profound impact on mankind”.

David Jewitt, at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Jane Luu, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, share the astronomy prize for their “discovery and characterization of trans-Neptunian bodies” — objects in the outer reaches of the Solar System, such as the chilly and mysterious Quaoar.

The life sciences and medicine award was shared by Franz-Ulrich Hartl at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany, and Arthur Horwich at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, for their work on the understanding of protein folding. For that same work, the pair also won the 2011 Lasker award for basic medical research; surely a Nobel cannot be far away.

Russian-born Maxim Kontsevich, at the Institute of Advanced Scientific Studies near Paris, France, took the mathematics prize for his “pioneering works in algebra, geometry and mathematical physics and in particular deformation quantization, motivic integration and mirror symmetry”. He has already won the Fields Medal and the Crafoord prize for his work.

The prizes will be awarded on 17 September 2012.

CORRECTED 1/6 – This blog originally listed Luu as being at MIT in Cambridge. In fact she is at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington.

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