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Among Nobel Laureates, Many Have Benefited From NSF Support

NSF has supported the basic research of more than 200 Nobel Prize winners, including five 2012 Nobel laureates in Chemistry, Physics and Economics.

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The 10 Nobel Prize winners announced over the past week include five Nobel laureates whose work has been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) over the years, attesting to the value of basic research in fostering major contributions to science and society. David J. Wineland, an NSF Graduate Research Fellow in 1965, and Serge Haroche, who received NSF funding in the 1980s, were jointly awarded the prize in Physics. Brian K. Kobilka, another recipient of NSF funding, was awarded the Prize in Chemistry (jointly with Robert J. Lefkowitz). And NSF-funded economists Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley, awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, received early and consistent NSF support.

The 2012 Nobel laureates will be recognized in Stockholm in December. National Science Foundation  

With the 2012 Nobel Prizes, NSF passes an important milestone: that of having provided support to more than 200 Nobel laureates at some point in their careers. There have now been 204 NSF-funded Nobel Laureates since NSF's founding in 1950.

"NSF is proud to have supported this year's Nobel Prize winners," said NSF Director Subra Suresh. "One of NSF's strengths is that we identify and support scientific visionaries long before their research is formally recognized through such accolades as the Nobel Prize."

Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley - ECONOMICS

Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley were jointly awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2012 "for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design."

According to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the research of Shapley of UCLA and Roth of Harvard (most recently Stanford) has answered basic questions about how to best address a central economic problem of how to best match resources to individuals.

Lloyd Shapley and his collaborators developed new methods in cooperative game theory to understand the properties of stable matching methods. A "stable" match is one where no two agents prefer to swap their current matched partners.

Al Roth realized that Shapley's work in pure theory could help explain how important markets function. Roth developed a new theory that predicted that stability would be a key predictor of success of market institutions, and tested this theory in laboratory experiments. He then used the results to develop new methods for allocation. His work is currently used to match new doctors to hospitals, to match students to schools, and to match organ donors to patients. His NSF-funded research continues to break new ground in these areas. For an interesting story about some of his work, watch an NSF "Science Nation" video, "New Software Matches More Kidney Donations, Faster," released on April 30.

Roth has received 13 NSF awards since 1982. These include awards made through NSF Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences directorate, as well as through interdisciplinary initiatives with NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate.

Shapley received eight NSF awards between 1971 and 1983 for his research, including awards from NSF's programs in economics, applied mathematics, political science, and decision risk and management science.

Including Roth and Shapley, NSF-funded Nobel Laureates in Economics now number 47.

Brian K. Kobilka - CHEMISTRY

Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors."

Each cell in the human body has tiny receptors that enable it to sense its environment, so it can adapt to new situations. Robert Lefkowitz, of Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University Medical Center, and Brian Kobilka of Stanford University School of Medicine were awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for groundbreaking discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family of such receptors: G-protein-coupled receptors.

Brian Kobilka was selected for NSF's Graduate Research Fellowship program in 1977. Last year, his research pursuits brought him back to NSF through NSF's relatively new International Collaboration in Chemistry (ICC) program.

His research on the chemical basis of allosteric ligand binding to G protein coupled receptorswas funded through ICC andNSF's Chemistry of Life Processes program in an international collaboration with a Japanese researcher. With Kobilka's award, the number of NSF-funded Nobel Laureates in Chemistry is 51.

Serge Haroche and David Wineland - PHYSICS

Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland were jointly award the Nobel Prize in Physics "for groundbreaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems."

Serge Haroche of the Collège de France and Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and David J. Wineland of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and University of Colorado Boulder have independently invented and developed methods for measuring and manipulating individual particles while preserving their quantum-mechanical nature, in ways that were previously thought unattainable. Their discovery opens a door to a new era of experimentation with quantum physics by demonstrating the direct observation of individual quantum particles without destroying them.

The early fundamental research in physics of both Haroche and Wineland was supported by NSF. Wineland was selected for a Graduate Research Fellowship in 1965. Haroche received two funding awards in atomic and molecular physics in the 1980s when he was at Yale University.

These two scientists bring the number of NSF-funded Nobel Laureates in Physics to 62.

Early NSF support has been important to the careers of a number of Nobel laureates, who received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships as graduate students. This program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in fields within NSF's mission, helping ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States. Of 204 NSF-supported Nobel laureates, 40 were selected as Graduate Research Fellows, including Brian Kobilka and David Wineland. A program that dates back to NSF's earliest days, the Graduate Research Program celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

For a full list of NSF-funded Nobel Laureates, visit the website, Nobel Prizes, the NSF Connection.

Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel, the Swede who invented dynamite, established in his will in 1896 awards for achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, peace and literature. The economics prize was set up by Sweden's central bank in 1968. Former winners include Milton Friedman, Amartya Sen and Friedrich August von Hayek. The economics award's official name is The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

On Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death, the laureates will receive 8 million kronor ($1.2 million), a gold medal and a diploma at a ceremony in Stockholm. The prize used to be worth 10 million kronor ($1.4 million), but was downsized this year because of the financial crisis.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, founded in 1739, is an independent organization whose overall objective is to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society. The Academy takes special responsibility for the natural sciences and mathematics, but endeavors to promote the exchange of ideas between various disciplines.