By Gary Robbins
IRVINE, Calif. (San Diego Union Tribune) — Dr. Ardem Patapoutian picked up the Nobel Prize on December 8 for helping discover how humans sense temperature and touch.
Karin Olofsdotter, the Swedish ambassador to the United States, conferred an 18-karat gold medal for physiology or medicine on Patapoutian and one of his co-winners, David Julius, of UC San Francisco, under circumstances that also were highly unusual.
All Nobel medals and diplomas — except for the ones given in peace — have historically been given in Stockholm, Sweden. But the Nobel Foundation decided — as it did a year ago — to honor the laureates in their home countries due to COVID-19 issues.
The four Western U.S. laureates received their prizes during a brief ceremony at the National Academies’ home near UC Irvine. They include Patapoutian and Julius, as well as David Card of UC Berkeley and Guido Imbens of Stanford, who won a Nobel in economics.
Patapoutian, 54, fled civil war in his native Lebanon in 1986 to emigrate to the U.S., where he began his career as a biochemist and later joined Scripps, where he still works.