The University of Parma celebrates Martin Chalfie, the U.S. scientist who in 2008, along with Osamu Shimomura and Roger Tsien, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the discovery and development of Green Fluorescent Protein.”
The honorary master’s degree in Physics that the Athenaeum awarded him today in the Aula Magna is a tribute to a man who is due a decisive role in the history of science. “Martin Chalfie’s contribution to scientific progress has been fundamental and revolutionary, in the fullest meaning of the word. In the sense that he was able to truly bring about a turning point in the history of science: a before and an after,” said Rector Paolo Andrei in his remarks, who focused in particular on perhaps Professor Chalfie’s best-known discovery: the use of GFP as a marker of gene expression. “The introduction of GFP and other fluorescent proteins similar to it literally revolutionized the biological sciences, allowing female scientists to observe in real time the working mechanisms of living cells,” Andrei noted, and then added, “GFP was like the discovery of a new universe. And at the same time, precisely because of this, the starting point of journeys yet to be made in science and the unexplored, in that ”new land” that is the frontier of every scholar and scholar and from whose exploration passes not only the advancement of knowledge but the progress of society, communities and people.”
Paolo Santini, president of the Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Physics degree program, also remarked on the historical significance of Martin Chalfie’s studies when reading the motivation for the award: “It is no exaggeration to say that the discoveries of Shimomura, Chalfie and Tsien changed the course of scientific history. Prof. Chalfie’s contribution to the development of biophysics has been profound and far-reaching. His studies have led to extraordinary advances in both methodological aspects and the understanding of important biological processes.
The research he conducted has been and continues to be a source of inspiration for countless biophysical studies.” For Cristiano Viappiani, professor of Applied Physics, who delivered the laudation, ” thirty years since the first applications of GFP in the Life Sciences we can without a shadow of a doubt say that these discoveries have marked scientific progress in an indelible way with immense spin-offs. The potential has only been partially explored, and the creativity of scientists will surely identify new and unexpected avenues, inspired, however, by that green light that, in 1994, was first turned on in Martin Chalfie’s laboratory.”