April 25, 2013

IST Lecture: Stephen Smale “The protein folding problem via relations with patterns in data and the geometry of kernels”

Yesterday, on May 24, IST Austria had the great pleasure to welcome Stephen Smale for his IST Lecture on “The protein folding problem via relations with patterns in data and the geometry of kernels”. Smale is an American mathematician, famous for his proof of the Poincaré conjecture for all dimensions greater than or equal to 5. Smale received the Fields Medal in 1966, and the Wolf Prize in Mathematics in 2007. Since 2009, he is Distinguished University Professor at the City University of Hong Kong.

In his lecture, Stephen Smale showed how mathematical methods can be used to describe the protein folding problem. According to Christian Anfinsen, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1972, the amino acid chain defines the protein folding. Anfinsen’s dogma was the starting point for Smale’s basic considerations on how, by folding the protein back and forth, the linear amino acid chain can be turned into a folding sequence. Smale expressed his confidence that once the protein folding is better understood, researchers will know more about how it influences biological processes. That will have an enormous impact, for example, on the development of vaccines.

Stephen Smale’s lecture in IST Austria’s Raiffeisen Lecture Hall was a great success, drawing more than 130 visitors. His talk was followed by a lively discussion with the enthusiastic audience.