Nobel Laureate Lecture: Michael Levitt

Event Details
  • Date/Time:
    • Monday November 24, 2014 - Tuesday November 25, 2014
      3:30 pm - 4:59 pm
  • Location: GT Student Center Ballroom
  • Phone:
  • URL:
  • Email:
  • Fee(s):
  • Extras:

Alicia Richhart


Summary Sentence: Birth and Future of Multi-Scale Modeling of Macromolecules

Full Summary: No summary paragraph submitted.

  • Michael Levitt - Nobel Laureate Lecture Headshot Michael Levitt - Nobel Laureate Lecture Headshot


Nobel Laureate Lecture: Michael Levitt

The development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems began in 1967 with publications by Warshel and Levitt, recently recognized 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 multiscale models have become increasingly popular in applications that range from simulation of atomic protein motion, to protein folding and explanation of enzyme catalysis. 

In this talk, Michael Levitt will describe the origins of computational structural biology and show some of the most exciting current and future applications


Born in South Africa 1947, Michael Levitt visited London at the age of 16 to be profoundly influenced by John Kendrew's 1944 BBC TV series "The Thread of Life".  After receiving a BSc in Physics at King’s College London and spending a year with Prof. Shneior Lifson and his PhD student Arieh Warshel at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, Levitt joined the Laboratory of Molecular (LMB), Cambridge, in 1968 .  His PhD thesis on Protein Conformation Analysis described use of classical force-fields and introduced energy refinement.

Levitt went back to Israel as an EMBO postdoc with Lifson. His then collaboration with Warshel resulted in new multi-scale approaches to molecular modeling: coarse-grained models that merge atoms to allow folding simulation and hybrid models that combine classical and quantum mechanics to explain how enzymes works by electrostatic strain.  In 1974, Levitt returned to LMB for three years, spent two years with Francis Crick at Salk and seven years at Weizmann, before moving to Structural Biology at Stanford from 1987.

His diverse interests have included RNA & DNA modeling, protein folding simulation, classification of protein folds & protein geometry, antibody modeling, x-ray refinement, antibody humanization, side-chain geometry, torsional normal mode, molecular dynamics in solution, secondary structure prediction, aromatic hydrogen bonds, structure databases, and mass spectrometry.  Levitt’s current postdocs work on protein evolution, the crystallographic phase problem and Cryo-EM refinement.

While enjoying membership of the Royal Society and the National Academy, Levitt remains an active programmer, a craft skill of which he is particularly proud.  His post-prize ambitions are two fold and likely inconsistent:  (1) Work single-mindedly as he did in the mid-1970’s on hard problems and (2) help today’s young scientists gain the recognition and independence that Levitt’s generation enjoyed.

Married in 1968 to Rina, an active artist, they have three children and a rapidly increasing number of grandchildren, all of whom help Levitt stay more-or-less normal.

Additional Information

In Campus Calendar

GVU Center, High Performance Computing (HPC), Computational Science and Engineering, College of Computing, School of Computer Science, School of Interactive Computing, School of Computational Science and Engineering, MS HCI

Invited Audience
chemistry, michael levitt, multi-scale modeling of macromolecules, nobel committee for chemistry, Nobel Laureate, nobel laureate lecture
  • Created By: Brittany Aiello
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Sep 30, 2014 - 6:57am
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 10:09pm