Biologist Harry Noller figures out what makes life work. His lab has revealed the workings of the protein factories in all living cells: tiny molecular machines called ribosomes. Noller proposed in the early 1970s that the RNA component was responsible for carrying out the ribosome’s key functions. Most biologists at the time disagreed, thinking of ribosomal RNA as simple scaffolding to hold the active proteins, not as the active pistons and gears of the machine. But subsequent findings by Noller and others proved he was right. Noller’s laboratory achieved breakthroughs in 1999 and 2001, producing the first high-resolution images of the molecular structure of a complete ribosome.