Joshua Seftel won the television award for spot news/feature reporting for a NOVA scienceNOW segment on Adrien Treuille, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University. Treuille has harnessed the brainpower of thousands of people who play computer games as a way to help solve difficult problems such as protein folding. David Baron, health and science editor for Public Radio International's "The World" and a contest judge, said Seftel's segment "brought energy and artistry to a topic that could easily be dry. A great concept, brilliantly executed."
Treuille created a game called FoldIt, which turns protein-folding — a puzzle that is difficult for even the most powerful computers — into a task that even a ten-year-old can take on. In just three weeks in 2011, FoldIt players (there are now more than 300,000 of them) solved the folding pattern for a protein that helps the HIV virus reproduce. In another game called EteRNA, more than 40,000 players have helped discover new rules for how the RNA molecule folds. "The program wisely allows the impassioned young scientist Adrien Treuille to carry the narrative, augmented with informative and beautiful graphics, as he explains how he converted his childhood obsession into a way of harnessing human brain power to solve scientific puzzles," said judge Kathy Sawyer, a freelance science writer who was formerly with The Washington Post. "I'm grateful that NOVA cares about telling the important stories in science — stories like Adrien Treiulle's which give me hope for the future," Seftel said. He was a winner in the online category in 2011.