An Insiders View To The Nobel Medal Ceremony Carol Greider has a gold medal that nearly every scientist dreams of receiving. The King of Sweden handed her the Nobel Prize for medicine on Thursday. Nobel week in Stockholm is full of events: concerts, receptions and dinners. Greider says the toughest problem she faced was deciding who to invite. Sixteen people could go as her guest.

An Insiders View To The Nobel Medal Ceremony

An Insiders View To The Nobel Medal Ceremony

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Carol Greider has a gold medal that nearly every scientist dreams of receiving. The King of Sweden handed her the Nobel Prize for medicine on Thursday. Nobel week in Stockholm is full of events: concerts, receptions and dinners. Greider says the toughest problem she faced was deciding who to invite. Sixteen people could go as her guest.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We're nearing the end of a week of Nobel Prizes. President Obama, of course, made the news, but Carol Greider won a Nobel Prize, as well, and she is now enjoying the benefits. Yesterday, the King of Sweden presented her with the prize for medicine. She and NPR's Joe Palca have been friends since they met on a bike ride in Alaska 17 years ago. Palca traveled to Stockholm for her medal ceremony and filed this report.

JOE PALCA: The Nobel Prize Committee informed Carol Greider last October that she'd won this year's prize in medicine. Since then she's been flying pretty high - parties, interviews, speeches. But when I called her last week before she left for Sweden, she sounded more like a mom getting ready for summer camp than a prize-winning scientist.

Professor CAROL GREIDER (Nobel Prize Winner 2009, Medicine): It's always a lot of the last minute little things.

PALCA: Like what?

Prof. GREIDER: Oh, I had to pack for Charles and for Gwendolyn and unpacking his shoes and realizing he doesn't have any dress socks.

PALCA: Charles and Gwendolyn are Carol's children. Charles is 13. Gwendolyn 10. One of the toughest problems Carol faced before she left was deciding who to invite.

Prof. GREIDER: Although, you know, 16 people can come as my guests, there are some events that only take eight, and other events only take four and other events only take five. So figuring out who goes to each one of those events was like planning four simultaneous dinner parties.

PALCA: Have you worked out an algorithm for that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Prof. GREIDER: No, I just sat there with a piece of paper and my brain.

PALCA: And it's a pretty potent brain. Carol won the prize for her work on something called telomerase, an enzyme critical for cells to keep dividing. The key discovery came in 1984 when she was still in graduate school. Nobel week in Stockholm is full of events - concerts, receptions, dinners and a lot of thank yous.

(Soundbite of applause)

Prof. GREIDER: I'd like to start by thanking the Nobel Committee and I'd like to say it's a real privilege to be here today.

PALCA: That was Carol's Nobel lecture on Tuesday at the Karolinska Institute. Finally, yesterday, it was time to actually hand out the awards. Before the ceremony, Carol's kids and friends gathered in the lobby of the Grand Hotel to take pictures of each other in their gowns and tails. Earlier in the day, Carol had gone to rehearsal. I asked her what she was supposed to do.

Prof. GREIDER: Walk, walk, walk; bow, bow, bow; turn around; and walk, walk, walk.

PALCA: Funny, she's smart enough to win the Nobel Prize, but the Nobel organizers apparently felt she needed practice with walking. Carol's daughter, Gwendolyn, wanted to know if she'd bowed to the King and Queen.

Prof. GREIDER: No, you bow to the King, you bow to the Assembly - the Nobel Assembly - and then you bow to the audience. And if you bow too deeply, they all say wow, and then it's bow wow.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PALCA: Gwendolyn seemed to appreciate the joke, although, maybe she was just being polite. The ceremony is held at the concert hall in Stockholm. About 1500 people attend. Rune Toftgard of the Karolinska Institute introduced Carol as well as Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak, the two other scientists who share this year's Prize in medicine.

Professor RUNE TOFTGARD (Member, Nobel Assembly, Karolinska Institute):I now ask you to step forward to receive your Nobel Prizes from the hands of His Majesty the King.

PALCA: Then it was time for walk, walk, walk; bow, bow, bow. She did it perfectly.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of applause)

PALCA: Joe Palca, NPR News, Stockholm.

(Soundbite of music)

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