How Berkeley breaks the Nobel news

Media swarm UC Berkeley professor George Smoot -- winner of 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics -- after his celebratory press conference. A dedicated team of UC Berkeley staffers helped Smoot prepare for the media crush. (UC Berkeley photo by Peg Skorpinski)

What’s happening before dawn each morning the Nobel prizes are announced? Chances are three staffers in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs — Gretchen Kell, Robert Sanders and Roxanne Makasdjian — are at home, barely awake, huddled over their separate laptop screens watching a Swedish press conference to see if any UC Berkeley faculty have won an award. 

It is an annual ritual of worry and wonder profiled in California Magazine. If no one from UC Berkeley wins, the three can go back to sleep for a few hours before putting in a normal day of work. If a winner completed his or her research at UC Berkeley before leaving for another school — as happened Monday with Immunologist James Allison — Sanders will send out a pre-written press release and climb back in to bed.

But if the winner is a current faculty member, Kell, Sanders and Makasdjian launch a choreographed plan that starts with calling the winner (who often thinks the call is a hoax), mobilizing a team of writers, photographers and videographers, waking the chancellor and speeding to the winner’s home. 

“It’s an exhausting day for me,” Makasdjian, told California magazine. “From 2:45 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. without stop.”

This video by Makasdjian shows what the morning was like for Randy Schekman when he won a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2013. UC Berkeley faculty have won 23 Nobel Prizes over the years.
Read the complete story, "Red Eyes On the Prize: How Berkeley Breaks the Nobel News" on California Magazine's website