Ada E. Yonath

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The scientists who discovered ribosome structure.

Ada E. Yonath is a crystallographer, born in Israel in 1939.

Despite being very poor, her parents did everything possible to ensure that Ada received a good academic education. She graduated in chemistry from the University of Jerusalem, and wrote her PhD on X-ray crystallography. Crystallography is the process for determining the structure of a molecule. Its an experimental technique for the study and analysis of materials, based on the phenomenon of X-ray diffraction by solids in a crystalline state.

Yonath was interested in the ribosome, a macromolecule composed primarily of proteins and ribonucleic acid (RNA). Ribosomes are tiny machines capable of building all the proteins that the cell needs to live, from haemoglobin to insulin. Through crystallography she unravelled these tiny structures in the cytoplasm of every living cell, creating the first crystals of the ribosome.

She also studied the mode of action of antibiotics within the ribosome, and the way in which the bacteria become resistant to them. X-ray crystallography was rapidly adopted by many laboratories around the world, since this technique allows us to understand one of the most urgent problems to be resolved by twenty-first century medicine: Antibiotic resistant bacteria In fact, it is a technique that is used to create more effective antibiotics.

In her research, she has examined over twenty different antibiotics, exploring avenues for discovering new antibiotics, and creating more effective ways of healing certain diseases For her studies on the structure and function of the ribosome she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009.

Ada E. Yonath is currently the director of The Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly of the Weizmann Institute.

«Working in science is synonymous with pleasure; it is intense and with it you generate new knowledge that contributes to the progress of humanity. scientific work gives me intellectual satisfaction, and i feel that if i do what i like i can be a better person.»