On December 10, in the elegant and festive setting of the Stockholm Concert Hall, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden presented the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Thomas A. Steitz, Ph.D., Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, for his seminal research in structural biology.

During the 1990s, Steitz, also professor of chemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and Yale colleagues used X-ray crystallography to determine the three-dimensional structure of the large subunit of the ribosome at 2.4 angstroms — a resolution high enough for the researchers to model each of the structure’s individual atoms.

The ribosome is a cellular organelle that is crucially involved in protein synthesis. Because many antibiotics work by targeting and shutting down the ribosomes of bacteria, Steitz’s research is now guiding the development of new drugs for the treatment of antibiotic-resistant infections.