MU Nobel Prize winner arrives in Stockholm

Posted on 6 December 2018 at 6:54pm
Story image: MU Nobel Prize winner arrives in Stockholm

STOCKHOLM - MU Professor Emeritus Dr. George Smith has officially touched down in Stockholm, Sweden to begin a week of celebrations during Nobel Prize Week.

Smith is the co-winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his development of bacteriophage display, which allows a virus that infects bacteria to create new proteins. The method was used in research to develop many pharmaceuticals, including some related to osteoporosis.

Smith is in Stockholm with a group of 15 other people, including his wife, children and their spouses and a gaggle of his post-doctoral fellows that he said are like family.

He said he has a busy schedule of press conferences and receptions and has spent weeks preparing for the guest lecture.

The talk has to stay under 25 minutes, something he said will be challenging for a professor. He spent some time before the ceremonies giving practice lectures to his colleagues and made loose scripts to ensure he keeps things brief and well-organized.

Each Nobel laureate is asked to donate an item related to their research. Smith is donating a test tube that has a small amount of solution which contains the first phage display he was able to construct.

In addition, each laureate was asked to sign a chair for the Nobel Bistro.

“My shaky signature is now forever memorialized in one of those chairs,” Smith said.

The week is designed to celebrate the laureates, and the Swedes make sure their visitors are well taken care of. They are driven in Volvos — which are Swedish cars — and have special access to the Vasa Museum, where a centuries-old sunken wooden warship is on display. Only current heads of state and Nobel laureates are permitted to board the ship; it is prohibited for everyone else.

This is not Professor Smith’s first time visiting the so-called “Venice of the North” -- he came in 2001 to speak at a chemistry conference that was happening in parallel with the Nobel ceremonies that year.

He and his wife have so far enjoyed a first-class experience in the city with locals.

On Wednesday evening, they visited a Swedish scientist who did a sabbatical at MU in the early 2000s to enjoy ‘fika,’ a traditional Swedish coffee break consisting of cinnamon rolls and cookies.

“It was fun. We got to visit a Swedish home yesterday, and we are going to go for dinner tonight in another Swedish home,” Marjorie Sable, Smith’s wife, said. “It's really nice when you are in a foreign country to get inside people's homes. It makes it more authentic.”

(Editor's Note: This reporting is being done in coordination with the Missouri School of Journalism, KBIA, the Missourian, and KOMU-TV.)