Monday, July 21, 2008

Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2008 might go to Zhong L Wang, George Whitesides, Akihisa Inoue, Galen Stucky or Louis Brus

We all know that Nobel Prize follows a pattern. It is rare that a subdivision gets the price in consecutive years (except for Biochemistry since biochemists in the selection committee are -evidently- louder than the others). For example, chemistry nobel prize was given to Organic chemistry in 2005, then Biochemistry in 2006 and Physical chemistry in 2007. If you go to earlier years you see lots of Biochemisty: Biochemistry in 2002, Biochemistry in 2003, Biochemistry in 2004. Another Organic Chemistry award was in 2001 when the old Organic chemists needed to be recognized. The last time Nobel prize in Chemistry went to Materials Chemistry was in 2000. I'm not even going into nationality patterns (i.e. 2007 was the year for Germans - Physics and Chemistry both!)

Here's a quick list:
2012 - Biochemistry
2011 - Materials Chemistry
2010 - Organic Chemistry
2009 - Biochemistry
2008 - Biochemistry
2007 - Physical Chemistry
2006 - Biochemistry
2005 - Organic Chemistry
2004 - Biochemistry
2003 - Biochemistry
2002 - Biochemistry
2001 - Organic Chemistry
2000 - Materials Chemistry
1999 - Physical Chemistry
1998 - Physical Chemistry
1997 - Biochemistry
1996 - Materials Chemistry

Nanoscale materials did not get a nobel prize since the bucky balls got it in 1996. I feel like it is time for some nano something gets the prize. It will be hard since there's not a trio or less that invented this field but I still think it's doable.

Take mesoporous materials for example. Jeffrey S. Beck of ExxonMobil for his MCMs, Galen Stucky of UCSB for his SBA-15 (also happens to be my postdoc advisor ;) and Thomas J. Pinnavaia of Michigan State comes forward. MCM-41 and SBA-15 are the landmarks of this mesoporous country. A nobel prize can very well be divided into these three guys.

But I think some others will get it if nano is awarded (though mesoporous is perfectly nanoscale). I've done a Web of Science search on who published most in nano (in the US) and I selected the following:

356 papers - Professor Zhong L. Wang of Georgia Tech
225 papers - Professor Paul Alivisatos of UC Berkeley
221 papers - Professor Chad Mirkin of Northwestern
195 papers - Professor Richard Smalley of Rice (1996 Nobel prize winner)
193 papers - Professor Charlie Lieber of Harvard
159 papers - Professor Mostafa Al-Sayed of Georgia Tech
157 papers - Professor Peidong Yang of UC Berkeley
145 papers - Professor Moungi Bawendi of MIT
136 papers - Professor Hongjie Dai of Stanford
134 papers - Professor Thomas E Mallouk of PennState
105 papers - Professor Louis E Brus of Columbia

Most in this list have advisor-student relationship and Louis Brus for example comes very early in the ladder.

There are other big shots in materials and chemistry in general, such as George Whitesides and Akihisa Inoue.

So, my guess is that 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be awarded to one of these three sets:
1) Zhong L. Wang, Charlie M. Lieber and Louis E. Brus
2) George M. Whitesides, Galen D. Stucky and Akihisa Inoue
3) Louis E. Brus, George M. Whitesides and Akihisa Inoue

Any other bets? Please do tell.


  1. Good research; I figured there were trends like this, but I never bothered looking it all up.

    I'd be pushing for Bawendi to get a piece of it; I'm a big fan.

    I'm guessing you'd prefer group #2 on that list of yours?

  2. good guess Will. Bawendi is a very nice person and he should get the price just for being so. But they never consider personality for a nobel prize.

  3. Well, funny forgot the guy who started the nano field : Sumio Iijima from NEC ! He is the discoverer of the nanotubes back in 90s...
    On another note, maybe some "energy guys" should get it this time : Honda and Fujishima perhaps?

  4. Well. Iijima deserves more than anybody but graphite based carbons already got a nobel in 1996. Also Iijima got the Kavli prize. They sort of honored him without having to give another nobel. Read the other post I did earlier regarding this issue.

  5. there should be a way of criticize this trend in Chemistry Nobel Price.