Michael Levitt

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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 (age 75)[1]
Pretoria, South Africa
Citizenship American, Israeli, British
Alma mater
Thesis Conformation analysis of proteins (1972)
Doctoral advisor Robert Diamond[4][5]
Doctoral students
  • Nizar Batada
  • Gaurav Chopra
  • David Hinds
  • Miriam Hirshberg
  • Enoch Huang
  • Rachel Kolodny
  • Chris Lee[6]
  • Sergio Moreno
  • Britt Park
  • Adelene Sim
  • Michael Sykes
  • Jerry Tsai
  • Dahlia Weiss
  • Yu Xia[7][8]
Other notable students
Notable awards
Spouse Rina[15]
Michael Levitt at the Biophysical Society meeting, February 2013

Michael Levitt, FRS (Hebrew: מיכאל לויט‎; born 9 May 1947) is an American-British-Israeli[16] biophysicist and a professor of structural biology at Stanford University, a position he has held since 1987.[17][18] Levitt received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry,[19] together with Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel, for "the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems".[20][21][22][23][24]

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.[25] He attended Sunnyside Primary School and then Pretoria Boys High School between 1960 and 1962. The family moved to England when he was 15.[26] Levitt spent 1963 studying applied mathematics at the University of Pretoria.[27] He attended King's College London, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics in 1967.[1][28]

In 1967, he visited Israel for the first time. Together with his Israeli wife, Rina,[15] 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.[29]


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.[30][31] 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.[32]

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.[33][34][35][36] 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,[37] where he criticized molecular dynamics for inability to refine protein structures.[38] He has also worked on simplified representations of protein structure for analyzing folding and packing[39][40][41] and developing scoring systems for large-scale sequence-structure comparisons.[42][43] He has mentored many successful scientists, including Mark Gerstein and Ram Samudrala.[44][45][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 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2001 and received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel, "for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems".[46] He received the DeLano Award for Computational Biosciences in 2014.[47] He was made a Fellow of the International Society for Computational Biology in 2015.[48]

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).[49][50] Levitt spends time every year in Israel, where his wife and children live.[51][52]


  1. 1.0 1.1 LEVITT, Prof. Michael. Who's Who. 2014 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (subscription required)
  2. Levitt, M. (2001). "The birth of computational structural biology". Nature Structural Biology. 8 (5): 392–393. doi:10.1038/87545. PMID 11323711.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Michael Levitt's publications indexed by Google Scholar, a service provided by Google
  4. Diamond, R.; Levitt, M. (1971). "A refinement of the structure of lysozyme". Biochemical Journal. 125 (4): 92P. PMC 1178298. PMID 5144255.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> open access publication - free to read
  5. 5.0 5.1 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".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Present colleagues in the Levitt Lab".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Cyrus H. Chothia, Chemistry Tree". Archived from the original on 2015-02-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Daggett, V.; Levitt, M. (1993). "Protein Unfolding Pathways Explored Through Molecular Dynamics Simulations". Journal of Molecular Biology. 232 (2): 600–619. doi:10.1006/jmbi.1993.1414. PMID 7688428.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Gerstein, M.; Levitt, M. (1997). "A structural census of the current population of protein sequences". PNAS. 94 (22): 11911–11916. doi:10.1073/pnas.94.22.11911. PMC 23653. PMID 9342336.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> open access publication - free to read
  12. Pethica, R. B.; Levitt, M.; Gough, J. (2012). "Evolutionarily consistent families in SCOP: Sequence, structure and function". BMC Structural Biology. 12: 27. doi:10.1186/1472-6807-12-27. PMC 3495643. PMID 23078280.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> open access publication - free to read
  13. Xia, Y.; Huang, E. S.; Levitt, M.; Samudrala, R. (2000). "Ab initio construction of protein tertiary structures using a hierarchical approach". Journal of Molecular Biology. 300 (1): 171–185. doi:10.1006/jmbi.2000.3835. PMID 10864507.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. http://www.embo.org/embo-members/find-a-member.html Find an EMBO member
  15. 15.0 15.1 Michael Levitt - Photo Gallery
  16. 2 Israeli-Americans awarded Nobel Prize in chemistry 9 October 2013, 16:36, Ynet
  17. http://csb.stanford.edu/ Levitt Lab website
  18. http://csb.stanford.edu/levitt/ Lab Website Profile Page
  19. Van Noorden, Richard (2013). "Modellers react to chemistry award: Nobel Prize proves that theorists can measure up to experimenters". Nature. 502 (7471): 280. doi:10.1038/502280a.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Van Noorden, R. (2013). "Computer modellers secure chemistry Nobels". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2013.13903.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013" (PDF) (Press release). Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 9 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Chang, Kenneth (9 October 2013). "3 Researchers Win Nobel Prize in Chemistry". New York Times. Retrieved 9 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Official Nobelprize.org Michael Levitt site, interview and pictures
  24. Biography, from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, United States Department of Energy
  25. Foreign Minister congratulates Litvak Levitt on winning Nobel Prize
  26. Nobel laureate Michael Levitt tells Haaretz: 'I still feel 16, so I have no ego’
  27. Nobel laureate Michael Levitt recollects UP’s contribution to his scientific career, University of Pretoria
  28. http://csb.stanford.edu/levitt/2_Page_CV.html Michael Levitt CV
  29. Nobel laureate Michael Levitt tells Haaretz: 'I still feel 16, so I have no ego’
  30. Levitt, Michael (1972). Conformation analysis of proteins (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Peterhouse alumnus". Retrieved 11 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Computer chemists win Nobel prize By James Morgan and Jonathan Amos, BBC News, 9 October 2013
  33. Chothia, C.; Lesk, A. M.; Tramontano, A.; Levitt, M.; Smith-Gill, S. J.; Air, G.; Sheriff, S.; Padlan, E. A.; Davies, D.; Tulip, W. R.; Colman, P. M.; Spinelli, S.; Alzari, P. M.; Poljak, R. J. (1989). "Conformations of immunoglobulin hypervariable regions". Nature. 342 (6252): 877–883. Bibcode:1989Natur.342..877C. doi:10.1038/342877a0. PMID 2687698.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Levitt, M.; Chothia, C. (1976). "Structural patterns in globular proteins". Nature. 261 (5561): 552–558. Bibcode:1976Natur.261..552L. doi:10.1038/261552a0. PMID 934293.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. 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. doi:10.1016/0022-2836(76)90311-9. PMID 985660.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. Levitt, M. (1976). "A simplified representation of protein conformations for rapid simulation of protein folding". Journal of Molecular Biology. 104 (1): 59–107. doi:10.1016/0022-2836(76)90004-8. PMID 957439.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. 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. doi:10.1002/prot.22781. PMC 2911515. PMID 20589633.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. 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. doi:10.1038/5794. PMID 10048917.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. 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. doi:10.1016/0022-2836(94)90040-X. PMID 7966290.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. 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. doi:10.1006/jmbi.1996.0256. PMID 8627632.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. 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. doi:10.1006/jmbi.1995.0351. PMID 7540695.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  42. 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. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.11.5913. PMC 34495. PMID 9600892.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  43. Brenner, S. E.; Koehl, P.; Levitt, M. (2000). "The ASTRAL compendium for protein structure and sequence analysis". Nucleic acids research. 28 (1): 254–256. doi:10.1093/nar/28.1.254. PMC 102434. PMID 10592239.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  44. List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  45. Michael Levitt's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database, a service provided by Elsevier.
  46. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2013/press.pdf
  47. "2014 ASBMB Annual Awards: DeLano Award for Computational Biosciences". Retrieved 22 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  48. "Meet the ISCB Fellows Class of 2015". Retrieved 20 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  49. Tiny Israel a Nobel heavyweight, especially in chemistry
  50. [1] By Haviv Rettig Gur, 9 October 2013, Times of Israel
  51. Two Israeli scientists who emigrated to U.S. win Nobel Prize in Chemistry Haaretz, by Ido Efrati, 9 October 2013
  52. 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
Succeeded by
Eric Betzig
Stefan Hell
William E. Moerner