It’s the academic equivalent to the Oscars that rewards those who have made significant advances in their respected fields. Alfred Nobel, a Swedish inventor, established the prizes in his will in 1895, and have since been awarded every year. Nobel, in his will, devoted his entire estate to the winner’s prizes, to be awarded to those who have provided the “greatest benefits to mankind”. Every year the prizes are awarded in Sweden (and Norway for the peace prize) and the winner(s) receive a gold medal and a cash prize. This year is the 115th ceremony and here are this year’s winners.

Physiology or Medicine

The Nobel Prize for medicine was jointly awarded this year. The first half was awarded to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites. The active ingredient in the drug is called Avermectin and it has been found to eliminate river blindness and reduce down Filariasis (a disease that disfigures the lymph system in the body). The second half was to Tu Youyou for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria. Her work began in 1967 when she extracted Artemisia annua (or sweet wormwood) from plants and started testing it on malaria parasites. The component responsible is called Artemisinin and is discovered to be very successful at killing the parasites responsible for malaria.

Physics

Professor Takaaki Kajita and Professor Arthur McDonald won the prize for physics for their discoveries concerning neutrinos flipping their flavours. Neutrinos are a group of subatomic particles which have no electrical charge, there are three “flavours” which are muon (Vµ­), tau (VT­) and electron (Ve). Professor Kajita noticed that neutrinos switched between the flavours whilst in the Earth’s atmosphere, Professor McDonald then further discovered that on a journey from the Sun to the Earth, neutrinos changed their flavour from what data predicted. This is an extremely important discovery as neutrinos are the 2nd most abundant particles in the universe behind photons but are still very much a mystery.

Chemistry

There were 3 joint winners of the Chemistry Noble Prize 2015 and they were Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar “for mechanistic studies of DNA repair”. The three scientists started mapping out how cells repair damaged DNA via a few different methods. Sancar primarily focussed on nucleotide excision repair which deals with UV damage to DNA. Modrich studied how cells correct any mistakes when DNA replicates itself, known as “mismatch repair”, during the division process. Finally, Lindahl looked at enzymes which repair damaged genetic material. These discoveries will help the development of new cancer treatments in the future.

Literature

Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for literature for her polyphonic writings which were described as “a monument to suffering and courage in our time”. Alexievich is the first Belarussian to be awarded the prize and also the first journalist. Her works include Zinky Boys which recounts the 10-year Soviet-Afghan war and Voices from Chernobyl which was the first book published to give personal accounts of the disaster.

Peace

The Tunisian National Dialogue Quarter were the recipients of the Peace prize for aiding the Tunisian government’s transition to democracy. In 2010 the country was on the verge of a civil war but the Jasmine Revolution in 2011 led to a democratization of Tunisia. Before the TNDQ became involved there was a lot of corruption, however after the resignation of Pres. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali things soon became more democratic and has inspired similar waves throughout North Africa.

Economics

Alfred Nobel didn’t actually set up the Economics prize. Instead it was set up in 1968 by the Sweden’s Central Bank “The Sveriges Riksbank”. It was awarded to Angus Deaton for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare. The British-born academic’s work focusses mainly on how people distribute their money into savings or is spent. His work has stressed how each individual’s decisions affect the overall economy especially in the poorer countries of the world.

All of the winners will receive their prizes at the Nobel ceremony on December 10th 2015 in Oslo and Stockholm. Congratulations to all of the recipients.

Luke Norman

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