Former MIT economics professor Eric S. Maskin and former graduate student Mario R. Capecchi were among the recipients of the Nobel Prizes in Economics and Medicine this year, respectively.
Maskin taught at MIT from 1977 to 1984 and returned as a visiting professor from 1999 to 2000. He is currently at Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Study.
Maskin shared the prize with Leonid Hurwicz and Roger B. Myerson “for having laid the foundations of mechanism design theory,” according to the Foundation’s Web site, which explains that the theory models collective decision-making in the allocation of resources. One of the applications of his research has been in the auction-style sale of government assets to the private sector, Maskin said in an interview with the Foundation. His work has influenced areas outside of economics such as regulation, corporate finance, and the theory of taxation, according to material on the Web site.
Capecchi came to MIT as a graduate student intending to study physics and mathematics, The Belfast Telegraph reported. While at MIT, he became interested in molecular biology and subsequently transferred to Harvard to join the lab of James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA with Francis Crick. In his interview with the foundation, Capecchi called Watson “a fantastic mentor.”
Capecchi shared the prize in Medicine with Sir Martin J. Evans and Oliver Smithies “for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells.“ Gene targeting has made genetically-modified mice an indispensable part of an experimenter’s toolkit, according to the Foundation’s Web site. It “allows scientists to create mice with mutations in any desired gene,” enabling them to evaluate “the function of any gene,” according to Capecchi’s lab Web site.
More information on the prizewinners can be found at http:// nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/.