Kurt Wüthrich

 

WurthrichKurt Wüthrich

Nobel laureate Swiss chemists and biophysicist Kurt Wüthrich received his Nobel Prize for the development of NMR spectroscopic methods suitable for the identification and structure analyses of biological macromolecules (mostly proteins).

He maintains several laboratories around the world: at the ETH Zürich, at The Scripps Research Institute, (La Jolla, California), at the iHuman Institute of ShanghaiTech University. He is also a visiting professor at the University of Edinburgh, and is honorary professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, moreover, he is a member of the American Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel.

He studied physics, mathematics and chemistry at the University of Bern, and got acquainted with the electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy technique. In addition, during his student years he worked as a part time high school teacher, teaching physics, chemistry and gymnastics. He earned his PhD in 1964 in Basel, where he studied the magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) technique. He continued his studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where he investigated the hydration of metal complexes with NMR and EPR spectroscopy; moreover, he studied group theory and quantum mechanics. Afterwards, he joined the Bell Laboratory (Murray Hill) where, he was working with one of the first superconducting NMR spectrometers (220 MHz), examining the protein structures and dynamics. In 1969 he returned to Switzerland to ETH Zürich Institute, where he carried out hemoprotein measurements with NMR, and EPR, and in 1980 he became a professor at the Biophysical Institute.

In 1975 he was elected as secretary general of IUPAB (International Union of Pure and Applied Biophysics) and he was a general committee member of ICSU (International Council for Science). These years were quite beneficial, since he met several researchers and students from all over the world, with several of whom he collaborated later.

With Nobel laureate Richard R. Ernst they worked on the development of a two-dimensional NMR measuring technique, and later he successfully established a new testing method based on the Nuclear Overhauser effect (NOE) as an NMR parameter; thus, facilitating the determation of intramolecular atom distances in case of macromolecules.

Wüthrich was awarded the Nober Prize in Chemistry in 2002 for his outstanding and progressive developments in the field of NMR spectroscopy. Techniques introduced by him are widely used, and significantly augment the three-dimensional structural studies of biological macromolecules (e.g. proteins, DNA).

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