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Richard P. Feynman

2004 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize

Submissions/nominations due June 30, 2004

Winners of the 2004 Feynman Prizes in Nanotechnology

Dr. David Baker of the University of Washington, Department of Biochemistry, and Dr. Brian Kuhlman, of the University of North Carolina, Dept of Biochemistry and Biophysics, received the theory prize for their development of RosettaDesign, a program that has a high success rate in designing stable protein structures with a specified backbone folding structure. Their work includes the design of the first protein to be constructed with a backbone fold not observed in nature; in experimental testing, the novel backbone structure was found to be extremely stable and to match the predicted structure with atomic-level accuracy. Their work marks a milestone on a path to molecular machine systems. Professor Baker has made RosettaDesign freely available to the research community.

The Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for experimental work was awarded to Dr. Homme Hellinga, of Duke University's, Department of Biochemistry, for his achievement in the engineering of atomically precise devices capable of precise manipulation of other molecular structures. Building on a broad base of achievement in computationally directed protein engineering, he has extended this work to the construction of an enzyme. This achievement demonstrates an innovative blend of techniques, applying computational design to reengineer a structure found in nature into a novel one with a different function. This work breaks new ground in engineering devices that transform molecular structures.

Dr. David Baker and Dr. K. Eric Drexler
Dr. David Baker (left) receives the theory prize from Dr. K. Eric Drexler, Foresight Founder and Advisor.
Dr. Homme Hellinga (right) and Dr. Ralph Merkle
Dr. Homme Hellinga (right) receives the experimental prize from Feynman Prize Selection Committee Chair Dr. Ralph Merkle.
Howard Lovy, David Baker, Homme Hellinga, Damian Allis Foresight Institute Feynman Prize winners David Baker (Theory, right center) and Homme Hellinga (Experimental, left of center) are flanked by winner of the Foresight Prize in Communication Howard Lovy (left) and winner of the Foresight Distinguished Student Award Damian Allis (right).

See also Foresight's press release Foresight Institute Awards Feynman Prizes: Nanotechnology Researchers, Journalist and Student Honored at Advanced Nanotechnology Conference

2004 Finalists

The following four individuals were selected as Finalists for the 2004 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology (Experimental):

The following four individuals or teams were selected as Finalists for the 2004 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology (Theory):

2004 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for Theoretical and Experimental Molecular Nanotechnology

Two prizes in the amount of $10,000 each will be awarded to the researchers whose recent work has most advanced the achievement of Feynman's goal for nanotechnology: molecular manufacturing, defined as the construction of atomically-precise products through the use of molecular machine systems. This year again separate prizes will be awarded for theoretical work and for experimental work. The prizes will be announced at a gala banquet at the 1st Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology: Research, Applications, and Policy, to be held October 21-24, 2004, at the Crystal City Marriott Hotel (Washington, DC Area).

This prize is given in honor of Richard P. Feynman who, in 1959, gave a visionary talk at Caltech in which he said "The problems of chemistry and biology can be greatly helped if our ability to see what we are doing, and to do things on an atomic level, is ultimately developed—a development which I think cannot be avoided."

Relevant Research Areas

Research areas considered relevant to MNT (e.g., molecular manufacturing and molecular machine systems) include but are not limited to:

  • supramolecular chemistry
  • mechanosynthesis
  • molecular machines
  • scanning probes
  • biomolecular machinery
  • computational chemistry
  • nanomaterials
  • nanotubes
  • self-assembly

Special consideration will be given to submissions clearly leading toward the construction of a general-purpose molecular assembler. Applicants wishing further information on the field of the prize are referred to the book Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation (Wiley Interscience, 1992).

Selection Committee for the 2004 Prize

A committee chaired by Foresight VP Technology Assessment Ralph Merkle—1998 Feynman Prize (Theory) co-recipient—will be asked to select this year's honorees.

Previous Feynman Prize winners

Distinctions between the annually awarded Feynman Prizes and the Feynman Grand Prize

Feynman Prizes
Experimental $5000 Presented for the best
work published in
recent years.
Theoretical $5000
Grand Prize
$250,000 Presented for demonstration
of 50 nanometer 8 bit adder
and 100 nanometer robot arm.

The Foresight Institute Feynman Prize 2004 will be the most recent in a series of annually awarded prizes for accomplishment in molecular nanotechnology. Both the annual Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology and the Feynman Grand Prize are sponsored by the Foresight Institute to encourage and accelerate the development of molecular nanotechnology. Both are named in honor of Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman. However, these prizes differ in focus, frequency of award, and scale.

The 2004 and other annual Prizes (originally designated the Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology) recognize recent achievements that contribute to the development of nanotechnology. The nature of the achievement is not specified in advance, and the judges choose from among the entries submitted which one most advanced the field during the preceding several years. In contrast, the Grand Prize will be awarded at some undetermined date in the future when someone builds two specified working devices, an accomplishment that will signal a crucial milestone on the road to a mature molecular manufacturing technology.

The annual Prize was awarded in 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and now in 2004. It will be awarded every year until the Grand Prize is awarded, at which point the series of annual Prizes will be finished.

The first annual Prize was $5000, the second was $10,000, and since the third the annual Prize has consisted of two prizes of $5,000 each, awarded for separate accomplishments in theoretical and in experimental areas. The Grand Prize will be at least $250,000.


Submission or Nomination Procedures

Either submit your own work or nominate a colleague who deserves this prize.

Information should be submitted by email attachment, URL, or on CD—no paper, please. Files may be sent in these formats: txt, html, doc, or pdf. Graphics may be sent in any browser-readable format. Please put information in attachments rather than in the body of an email.

Nominations must state which Prize is being applied for (Experimental or Theoretical); have a summary with the nominee's address, telephone, and (if possible) fax and email address; and must include at least one (ideally, all) of the following:

  • URL of bio, CV, and/or research group
  • List of up to five most relevant publications
  • URLs for, or electronic files of, up to five most relevant publications
  • Statement of up to 400 words describing the work and its relevance to the goal of MNT, e.g., molecular manufacturing and molecular machine systems. [If the work has multiple authors, the nominee's role must be stated.]

Submissions should be emailed to, or CDs mailed to Foresight Institute at the postal address below, to arrive by June 30, 2004. Contact information should be included for nominator as well as nominee. Finalists may be contacted for additional information.

Individual submissions are preferred, but teams of up to three will be considered. Team members may not be changed after the submission deadline.

The prizewinner (minimum of one person per team) must accept in person at the Feynman Prize Banquet at the conference. The prizewinner (or one member of each winning team) will receive complimentary full registration including banquet, coach airfare and up to 3 nights hotel (arranged by Foresight Institute, Sat. night stay may be required), and the physical award.

For further information, contact the Foresight Institute at

P.O. Box 61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA
Tel 650-917-1122
Fax 650-917-1123

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