October 6, 2004. Irwin (Ernie) Rose received the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry today for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation. At age 78, Ernie continues to work in the laboratory and is focusing his efforts on mechanistic enzymology.
"I had the privilege of collaborating with Ernie a couple of years ago on a project involving the mechanism of methyl glyoxalate synthetase", says UCI Chemistry Professor James Nowick. Ernie had postulated the intermediacy of the never-before-observed molecule 2-hydroxypropenal in the methylglyoxal synthetase reaction and had hints of its existence from UV spectroscopic studies. "We used the UCI Chemistry Department's state-of-the-art NMR facility to prove that this molecule was forming. Observing a compound that contains only three carbon atoms, yet had never been seen before, felt like discovering a new planet in the solar system", adds Nowick. Drs. Rose and Nowick published this work in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in 2002.
Nowick comments: "Ernie Rose is the consummate scientist. He is enthralled by the problems upon which he is working and loves the pursuit of new knowledge through research. After discovering ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation, which ultimately led to his Nobel Prize, Ernie did not rest on his laurels, but rather moved on to new problems and challenges. He continues to work in the laboratory and is focusing his efforts on mechanistic enzymology. When I finally got through to him this morning, after the Nobel Prize was announced, Ernie said that he was looking forward to coming to UCI this afternoon to perform mass spectrometric experiments in the UCI Chemistry Department's world-class mass spectrometry facility."