The 2008 Nobel Prizes were awarded to the newest group of laureates at Stockholm's Concert Hall in Sweden on Dec. 10. Among this year's winners is Columbia professor Martin Chalfie, who shares the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Roger Tsien of the University of California San Diego and Osamu Shimomura of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, for their individual work on the green fluorescent protein (GFP) and its use in biological science research.

Martin Chalfie receives his Nobel Prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the Stockholm Concert Hall.
Martin Chalfie receives his Nobel Prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the Stockholm Concert Hall. (View more images of Prof. Chalfie at Nobel Prize events.)

Image credit: Hans Mehlin

Introducing the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, Professor Måns Ehrenberg credited the researchers for having "radically changed the scientific agenda." (Watch the full ceremony.)

"Improved variants of GFP and GFP-like proteins in synergy with high-resolution microscopes, computational technology, and powerful theoretical approaches are currently fueling a scientific biological, medical and pharmaceutical research," said Ehrenberg. GFP naturally occurs in the Pacific-dwelling jellyfish, aequorea Victoria.

Chalfie, chair of Columbia's department of biological sciences and the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Biological Sciences, was honored for demonstrating that GFP could be expressed in other organisms.

Few researchers in the scientific community believed that the protein could be expressed in other organisms, but Chalfie held on to his differing opinion, believing in the promise of GFP's potential impact on scientific research.

In 1993 and 1994, Chalfie was able to prove that GFP could indeed be expressed in two living organisms: a small roundworm, c. elegans, and the bacterium e. coli. "Professor Chalfie's results not only show the power of experiment over scientific prejudice," said Ehrenberg, "but also make it clear to many that GFP was destined to become a universal genetic marker."

Following the introduction, Chalfie received the Nobel Prize Medal, Nobel Prize Diploma and the document confirming the Nobel Prize amount from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. After shaking hands with the King, Chalfie, with a broad smile on his face, bowed and blew a kiss to the audience.

Chalfie shares this prestigious honor with Shimomura, who was awarded the Nobel for his discovery of GFP in the aequorea Victoria jellyfish, and Tsien, whose research has led to the development of engineered variants of GFP.

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