Michael Levitt

Michael Levitt

Michael Levitt
Nobel Prize Laureate Michael Levitt during press conference in Stockholm, December 2013.
Nobel Prize Laureate Michael Levitt during 2013 press conference in Stockholm
Born (1947-05-09) 9 May 1947 [1]
Citizenship American, Israeli, British
Alma mater
Thesis Conformation analysis of proteins (1972)
Doctoral advisor Robert Diamond[4][5]
Doctoral students
  • Gaurav Chopra
  • Miri Hirshberg
  • Chris Lee[6]
  • David Hinds
  • Enoch Huang
  • Britt Park
  • Adelene Sim
  • Jerry Tsai
  • Dahlia Weiss
  • Yu Xia[7][8]
Other notable students
Notable awards
Spouse Rina[14]
Michael Levitt at the Biophysical Society meeting, February 2013

Michael Levitt, FRS (born 9 May 1947) is an American-British-Israeli[15] biophysicist and a professor of structural biology at Stanford University, a position he has held since 1987.[16][17] Levitt received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry,[18] together with Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel, for "the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems".[19][20][21][22][23]


  • Education and early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Research 3
    • Industrial collaboration 3.1
  • Awards and honors 4
  • Personal life 5
  • References 6

Education and early life

Michael Levitt was born in Pretoria, South Africa, to a Jewish family from Plungė, Lithuania; his father was Lithuanian and his mother was of Czech descent.[24] He attended Sunnyside Primary School and then Pretoria Boys High School between 1960 and 1962. The family moved to England when he was 15.[25] Levitt spent 1963 studying applied mathematics at the University of Pretoria.[26] He attended King's College London, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics in 1967.[1][27]

In 1967, he visited Israel for the first time. Together with his Israeli wife, Rina,[14] a multimedia artist, he left to study at Cambridge, where his three children were born. In 1979, he returned to Israel and conducted research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, becoming an Israeli citizen in 1980. He served in the Israeli Defense Forces for six weeks in 1985. In 1986, he began teaching at Stanford, and since then has split his time between Israel and California.[28]


Levitt was a PhD student in Computational Biology at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and was based at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology from 1968 to 1972, where he developed a computer program for studying the conformations of molecules that underpinned much of his later work.[29][30] In 1967, he was sent on behalf of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the University of Cambridge, to Israel, to work at the Weizmann Institute of Science, with Professor Shneior Lifson and a student of his – Arieh Warshel, of the Technion in Haifa. They were using computer modelling to understand the behaviour of biological molecules.[31]

He went on to gain a research fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

From 1980 to 1987, he was Professor of Chemical Physics at Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. Thereafter, he has served as Professor of Structural biology, at Stanford University, California.


Levitt was one of the first researchers to conduct molecular dynamics simulations of DNA and proteins and developed the first software for this purpose.[32][33][34][35] He is currently well known for developing approaches to predict macromolecular structures, having participated in many Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction (CASP) competitions,[36] where he criticized molecular dynamics for inability to refine protein structures.[37] He has also worked on simplified representations of protein structure for analyzing folding and packing[38][39][40] and developing scoring systems for large-scale sequence-structure comparisons.[41][42] He has mentored many successful scientists, including Mark Gerstein and Ram Samudrala.[43][44][3] Cyrus Chothia was one of his colleagues.

Industrial collaboration

Levitt has served on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the following companies: Oplon Ltd, Cocrystal Discovery, StemRad, Ltd, and Cengent Therapeutics, Inc.

Awards and honors

Levitt received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel, "for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems".[45]

Personal life

Levitt holds American, British and Israeli citizenship (he is the 6th Israeli to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in under a decade).[46][47] Levitt spends time every year in Israel, where his wife and children live.[48][49]


  1. ^ a b "LEVITT, Prof. Michael". Who's Who 2014.   (subscription required)
  2. ^ Levitt, M. (2001). "The birth of computational structural biology". Nature Structural Biology 8 (5): 392–393.  
  3. ^ a b List of publications from Google Scholar
  4. ^ Diamond, R.; Levitt, M. (1971). "A refinement of the structure of lysozyme". The Biochemical journal 125 (4): 92P.  
  5. ^ a b Michael Levitt academic genealogy and list of PhD & Postdoc trainees
  6. ^ Michael Levitt at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  7. ^ "Past colleagues in the Levitt Lab". 
  8. ^ "Present colleagues in the Levitt Lab". 
  9. ^ Daggett, V.; Levitt, M. (1993). "Protein Unfolding Pathways Explored Through Molecular Dynamics Simulations". Journal of Molecular Biology 232 (2): 600–619.  
  10. ^  
  11. ^ Pethica, R. B.; Levitt, M.; Gough, J. (2012). "Evolutionarily consistent families in SCOP: Sequence, structure and function". BMC Structural Biology 12: 27.  
  12. ^ Xia, Y.; Huang, E. S.; Levitt, M.;  
  13. ^ http://www.embo.org/embo-members/find-a-member.html Find an EMBO member
  14. ^ a b Michael Levitt - Photo Gallery
  15. ^ 2 Israeli-Americans awarded Nobel Prize in chemistry 9 October 2013, 16:36, Ynet
  16. ^ http://csb.stanford.edu/ Levitt Lab website
  17. ^ http://csb.stanford.edu/levitt/ Lab Website Profile Page
  18. ^ Van Noorden, R. (2013). "Modellers react to chemistry award". Nature 502 (7471): 280.  
  19. ^ Van Noorden, R. (2013). "Computer modellers secure chemistry Nobels". Nature.  
  20. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013" (Press release). Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 9 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  21. ^ Chang, Kenneth (9 October 2013). "3 Researchers Win Nobel Prize in Chemistry".  
  22. ^ Official Nobelprize.org Michael Levitt site, interview and pictures
  23. ^ Biography, from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, United States Department of Energy
  24. ^ Foreign Minister congratulates Litvak Levitt on winning Nobel Prize
  25. ^ Nobel laureate Michael Levitt tells Haaretz: 'I still feel 16, so I have no ego’
  26. ^ Nobel laureate Michael Levitt recollects UP’s contribution to his scientific career, University of Pretoria
  27. ^ http://csb.stanford.edu/levitt/2_Page_CV.html Michael Levitt CV
  28. ^ Nobel laureate Michael Levitt tells Haaretz: 'I still feel 16, so I have no ego’
  29. ^ Levitt, Michael (1972). Conformation analysis of proteins (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. 
  30. ^ "Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Peterhouse alumnus". Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  31. ^ Computer chemists win Nobel prize By James Morgan and Jonathan Amos, BBC News, 9 October 2013
  32. ^  
  33. ^ Levitt, M.;  
  34. ^ Warshel, A.; Levitt, M. (1976). "Theoretical studies of enzymic reactions: Dielectric, electrostatic and steric stabilization of the carbonium ion in the reaction of lysozyme". Journal of Molecular Biology 103 (2): 227–249.  
  35. ^ Levitt, M. (1976). "A simplified representation of protein conformations for rapid simulation of protein folding". Journal of Molecular Biology 104 (1): 59–107.  
  36. ^ Chopra, G.; Kalisman, N.; Levitt, M. (2010). "Consistent refinement of submitted models at CASP using a knowledge-based potential". Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics 78 (12): n/a–n/a.  
  37. ^ CASP participants usually did not try to use MD to avoid "a central embarrassment of molecular mechanics, namely that energy minimization or molecular dynamics generally leads to a model that is less like the experimental structure", Koehl, P; Levitt, M (1999). "A brighter future for protein structure prediction". Nature Structural Biology 6 (2): 108–11.  
  38. ^ Hinds, D. A.; Levitt, M. (1994). "Exploring conformational space with a simple lattice model for protein structure". Journal of molecular biology 243 (4): 668–682.  
  39. ^ Park, B.; Levitt, M. (1996). "Energy Functions that Discriminate X-ray and Near-native Folds from Well-constructed Decoys". Journal of Molecular Biology 258 (2): 367–392.  
  40. ^ Gerstein, M.; Tsai, J.; Levitt, M. (1995). "The Volume of Atoms on the Protein Surface: Calculated from Simulation, using Voronoi Polyhedra". Journal of Molecular Biology 249 (5): 955–966.  
  41. ^ Levitt, M.; Gerstein, M. (1998). "A unified statistical framework for sequence comparison and structure comparison". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 95 (11): 5913–5920.  
  42. ^ Brenner, S. E.; Koehl, P.; Levitt, M. (2000). "The ASTRAL compendium for protein structure and sequence analysis". Nucleic acids research 28 (1): 254–256.  
  43. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  44. ^ Michael Levitt from the Scopus bibliographic database.
  45. ^ http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2013/press.pdf
  46. ^ Tiny Israel a Nobel heavyweight, especially in chemistry
  47. ^ [1] By Haviv Rettig Gur, 9 October 2013, Times of Israel
  48. ^ Two Israeli scientists who emigrated to U.S. win Nobel Prize in Chemistry Haaretz, by Ido Efrati, 9 October 2013
  49. ^ Nobel laureate: I didn't get tenure in Israel Yitzhak Benhorin, Washington, Ynet, 9 October 2013

Preceded by
Brian Kobilka
Robert Lefkowitz
Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate
With: Martin Karplus
Arieh Warshel
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