Jennifer Doudna, New Nobel Laureate, on Science and Covid
Last week, Nobel Prize season arrived.
Among the several winners with ties to California were two Stanford professors — Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson, were awarded the Nobel in economic science — and three University of California scholars. Reinhard Genzel, a U.C. Berkeley professor emeritus of physics and astronomy, and Andrea Ghez, a U.C.L.A. professor of astrophysics, shared the prize in physics with a mathematician at Oxford University for their work on black holes.
And Jennifer Doudna, a U.C. Berkeley professor, shared the prize in chemistry with Emmanuelle Charpentier, now the director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, for their work on Crispr-Cas9, a method to edit DNA.
[See the full list of 2020 Nobel winners and read more coverage here.]
It’s the first time the award has gone to two women, and Dr. Doudna is the first woman to win a Nobel Prize while she is still on the U.C. Berkeley faculty.
That role has kept her plugged into campus life in ways that have been both challenging and exciting in the pandemic, Dr. Doudna told me on Thursday. Her lab, for instance, rushed to start doing coronavirus testing back in March.
I asked her about how her work has shifted in the Covid era and about the role of science in 2020.
Here’s our conversation, lightly edited and condensed:
First of all, congratulations! How are you feeling?
I’m in total shock and I don’t feel like I really have had even a minute to think about it. There’s just so many things going on.
The thing I’m really grateful for is I had a chance to go to my lab yesterday. They had thrown together an impromptu party. We were all socially distanced and had our masks