MODERATOR: Richard Besser
PARTICIPANTS: Alan Alda, Brian Greene, Ann Graybiel, Eric Kandel, Martin Rees, Paul Weiss
PROGRAM DATE: Thursday, May 29, 2014

The prestigious biennial Kavli Prizes recognize scientists for major advances in three research areas: astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience—the big, the small and the complex. The 2014 winners, sharing a $1 million award in each field, will be announced live via satellite from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo. The opening conversation, in tribute to the extraordinary philanthropist, the late Fred Kavli, will feature Alan Alda, Brian Greene and Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel. Following the announcement of the winners, three renowned scientists—nanoscientist Paul Weiss , neuroscientist Ann Graybiel and astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees—will join ABC News’ chief health and medical editor Richard Besser for a discussion of the scientific achievements of the Kavli Laureates and provide commentary on the next wave of research and opportunities within these dynamic fields.

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ABC News Chief Health & Medical Editor

Richard Besser is ABC News’ chief health and medical editor. In this role, he provides medical analysis and commentary for all ABC News broadcasts and platforms, including World News with David Muir, Good Morning America, and Nightline. Besser came to ABC News from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where he served as director of the Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response. He also served as acting director for the CDC. Besser began his career at the CDC in 1991 in the Epidemic Intelligence Service. Following this, he served for five years on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego, as the pediatric residency director. While in San Diego he worked for the county health department on the control of pediatric tuberculosis. He returned to the CDC in 1998, where he served in various capacities, including epidemiology section chief in the Respiratory Diseases Branch. He received a Surgeon General’s Medallion award for his leadership during the H1N1 response. Besser holds a B.A. in economics from Williams College and received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.


Actor, Author, Director

Alan Alda, a seven-time Emmy Award–winner, played Hawkeye Pierce and wrote many of the episodes on the classic TV series M*A*S*H, and appeared in continuing roles on ER, The West Wing, 30 Rock, and The Blacklist. He has starred in, written, and directed many films, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. 

His interest in science led to his hosting the award-winning PBS series Scientific American Frontiers for 11 years, on which he interviewed hundreds of scientists.  Also on PBS he hosted The Human Spark, winning the 2010 Kavli Science Journalism Award, and Brains on Trial in 2013. On Broadway, he appeared as the physicist Richard Feynman in the play QED. He is the author of the play Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie. He has won the National Science Board’s “Public Service Award,” the Scientific American “Lifetime Achievement Award,” and the American Chemical Society Award for “Public Service,” among others.  He is a Visiting Professor at Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.

Brian Greene
Brian Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, and is recognized for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in his field of superstring theory. His books, The Elegant UniverseThe Fabric of the Cosmos, and The Hidden Reality, have collectively spent 65 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and were the basis of two award-winning NOVA mini-series, which he hosted. Professor Greene co-founded the World Science Festival in 2008 and serves as Chairman of the Board.

Ann Graybiel is a neuroscientist and investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. Her research focuses on the basal ganglia, a group of forebrain structures involved in controlling movement, cognition, and habit learning. Her insights into the brain are relevant to understanding a variety of diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and drug addiction. Graybiel has been honored with the National Medal of Science, MIT’s Killian Faculty Achievement Award, the Woman Leader of Parkinson’s Science award, and the 2012 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine.

Eric Kandel_192
Neuropsychiatrist and Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine

Eric Kandel is Kavli Professor and University Professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, and a senior investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Kandel was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000 for his research on the molecular mechanisms of learning and memory.

The founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia, Kandel has been the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, among them the 1999 Wolf Prize, the 1983 Lasker Award, and the 1988 National Medal of Science. In 2006, he published In Search of Memory, a book for the general public describing his research into the neural mechanism of memory, which received that year’s Los Angeles Times Book Award for Science and Technology and the National Academy of Sciences Communication Award for Science Book of the Year.

Cosmologist, Astrophysicist

Martin Rees is the UK’s Astronomer Royal and a Fellow (and former Master) of Trinity College, Cambridge. After studying at Cambridge, he held post-doctoral positions in the UK and the USA, before becoming a professor at Sussex University, and subsequently moving to Cambridge as professor and (for ten years) Director of the Institute of Astronomy. He has received numerous international awards including the Balzan Prize. the Crafoord Prize (Swedish Academy), the Bower Prize (Franklin Institute) and the Templeton Prize. He is a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy, and several other foreign academies. He served during 2005-2010 as President of the Royal Society and in 2005 he was appointed to the UK’s House of Lords. His research focus has been on black holes, cosmology, the ‘multiverse’ and extreme physics in the universe. He has written several general books on cosmology, and also one, ‘Our Final Hour’, addressing possible existential threats from advanced technology and environmental degradation. His most recent book is ‘From here to infinity: a vision for 21st century science’ (W W Norton).

Paul Weiss

Paul S. Weiss is director of the California NanoSystems Institute, Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences, and distinguished professor of chemistry & biochemistry and of materials science & engineering at UCLA. His work focuses on the ultimate limits of miniaturization, exploring the world’s smallest switches and motors. He builds and applies new tools and develops methods to measure the structure and to elucidate the function of both synthetic and biological machines with atomic resolution. To do so, he has also developed chemical patterning methods to control the placement and environment of molecules simultaneously from the subnanometer to the centimeter scales. He is the founding editor-in-chief of ACS Nano, one of the leading journals in nanoscience and nanotechnology.