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Planning For Nobel Ceremonies Taxes Even Brainy Winner

Most of the hoopla surrounding the Nobel Prizes occurs in October when winners are announced.

Carol Greider, Nobel prize winner.

hide captionJohns Hopkins' Carol Greider is getting ready for her big trip to Stockholm.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

But if you're one of the lucky recipients, you have to travel to Stockholm to actually collect your award. It's given out at a ceremony on December 10th, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death.

Nobel week in Stockholm is a big deal. There are concerts, receptions, dinners and speaking events throughout the week.

This year, NPR has decided to cover the prize ceremony, in part because I've known Carol Greider, one of the laureates, for 17 years. She and I met on a bike trip in Alaska. The trip was organized by her grad school friends, one of whom subsequently became my wife.

Carol won a share of the physiology or medicine prize for her work on telomerase, an enzyme that prevents chromosomes from getting shorter when they divide. Turns out this has important implications for aging and some diseases, including cancer.

Since the prize was announced, Carol's been to a variety of congratulatory events. For example, Tuesday there was a morning event sponsored by the Swedish Embassy with six other US laureates, then a private audience with President Obama in the Oval Office, and then a dinner back at the the Swedish Embassy.

When I spoke with her earlier in the week Carol seemed pretty excited about the Obama meeting. "It will be great to share it with the kids," she told me. She has two kids, Gwendolyn, 9 and Charles, 13. "They're really looking forward to that."

When I checked in this morning, Carol called the White House event "thrilling." She also said it was a long day, and by dinner the kids were fading. But they hung in there, because, hey, how often does your mom win the Nobel Prize.

Even for a prize-winning scientist, Nobel party planning presents some perplexing computational challenges. The various events have very different guest quotas, as she explained in a conversation with me. Take a listen:

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