Nobel Prize winner: without the University of Turku, I would have given up science


Honorary doctor of the University of Turku, Stefan W. Hell, was one of the Nobel Prize winners in chemistry in 2014. The Nobel was awarded to the inventors of super resolution microscopy.

In 2014, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Eric Betzig, William E. Moerner and Stefan W. Hell. The three scientists have conducted pioneering research when developing super resolution microscopy.

Stefan W. Hell, who comes from Germany, was conferred as the honorary doctor of the Faculty of Medicine in 2009. On his honorary doctor lecture in May 2009, Hell described how the development of the microscopes has revolutionised the research in biosciences.

– You could say – and this is not an exaggeration – that the development of the resolution began in Turku, at the Department of Medical Physics in 1993, said Hell.

Professor Pekka Hänninen from the Faculty of Medicine is delighted that his long-term partner in co-operation received the prize. Hänninen reveals that Hell’s inventions from 1994 and 1995 mentioned in the Nobel Committee’s press release were made in the University of Turku, where Hell was working as a post doc researcher at the time.

– The fundamental publications and innovations of the Nobel Prize winning research were made in Turku, sums Hänninen.

Hänninen met Hell at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg from where Hell came to Turku. He received funding from the Academy of Finland for his research, the premise of which was doubted by several large funding countries.

– Super resolution microscopy was largely invented in Turku. In the 90s, Stefan W. Hell led the research group at the University of Turku, which developed the principle of super resolution microscopy, describes Hänninen.

For its part, Hell’s research created a base for the Turku Bioimaging research infrastructure which was established in 2007.

Hell stated to the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper in March 2014:

– Without the University of Turku, I would have given up science.

Text: Tuomas Koivula
Photo: Hanna Oksanen
Translation: Mari Ratia