Professor Michael Levitt


  • Gemma-Louise Davies Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick
  • Gemma-Louise Davies Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick



Michael Levitt, 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Role Models, Interdisciplinarity


Professor Michael Levitt (Stanford University, USA) won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems—computational tools which can calculate the course of chemical reactions. Professor Levitt was born in Pretoria, South Africa; he came to the UK on a summer vacation aged 16, where he decided to stay and study for his A‑levels. His interest in the physics of living systems drove him to study biophysics at King’s College London, before securing a PhD position at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. In the interim year between his degree and beginning his PhD, Professor Levitt worked at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, where he met his future wife. They married later that year and moved to Cambridge, where their three children were born. After completing his PhD, he spent time working in Israel, Cambridge, the Salk Institute and Stanford (both California). Since 1986, he has split his time between Israel and California. Outside of science, he is a keen hiker and he is well-known to have attended the eclectic ‘Burning Man’ Festival in California.[1]

Professor Levitt visited the University of Warwick to speak at the Computational Molecular Science Annual Conference in March 2015. In this interview, Dr Gemma-Louise Davies, an Institute of Advanced Study Global Research Fellow, spoke to Professor Levitt about the importance of Interdisciplinarity in his field, role models in Academia, and his plans for the future.

Image: Professor Michael Levitt (left) with Dr Scott Habershon (right, organiser of the 2015 Computational Molecular Science Annual Conference) during his visit to the University of Warwick in March 2015.

[1] ‘Burning Man’ is a unique annual festival dedicated to community, art, music, self-expression and self-reliance. Tens of thousands of people flock to this temporary metropolis built in the Californian desert.


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Editorial (2015), ‘Mind Meld’. Nature, 525, 289–90.

Ledford, H. (2015), ‘How to solve the world's biggest problems’, Nature, 525, 308–11.

Levitt, M. (1975), ‘Computer simulation of protein folding’, Nature, 253, 694–98.

Rylance, R. (2015), ‘Grant giving: Global funders to focus on interdisciplinarity’, Nature, 525, 313–15.

Van Noorden, R. (2015), ‘Interdisciplinary research by the numbers’, Nature, 525, 306–07.

Wagner, C. S., Roessner, J. D., Bobb, K., Klein, J. T., Boyack, K.W., Ketyton, J., et al. (2011), ‘Approaches to understanding and measuring interdisciplinary scientific research (IDR): A review of the literature’, Journal of Informetrics, 5 (1), 14–26.

Warshel, A., Levitt, M. (1976), ‘Theoretical studies of enzymatic reactions: dielectric, electrostatic and steric stabilisation of the carbonium ion in the reaction of lysozyme’, Journal of Molecular Biology, 1976, 103 (2), 227–49.

Photo of Michael Levitt






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