Chemists Talkin Chemistry

Nobel Prize in Chemistry: The 2007 Line

Posted by Paul on April 18th, 2007

I know youve all been asking yourselves, Whos going to win the next Nobel Prize in Chemistry?

Well, bookmakers at the fabulous ChemBark Hotel Casino have been hard at work revising last years odds. The new line is presented below, and the first thing youll notice is that more than a few biological achievements have crept into the mix.

Remember that these numbers address the question of who will win the Prize, not who should win it. As always, feel free to share your criticism in the comments. The odds may change as the event draws closer.

The Field
(everything not listed below), 3-1
Molecular Studies of Gene Recognition, Ptashne, 15-1
Nuclear Hormone Signaling, Chambon/Evans/Jensen, 15-1
Fluorescent Probes/GFP, Tsien/+, 17-1
Transition-Metal-Catalyzed Cross-Couplings, Suzuki/Heck/Sonogashira/+/–, 17-1
Instrumentation/Techniques in Genomics, Venter/+, 19-1
Self-Assembled Monolayers, Whitesides/Nuzzo/+, 19-1
Biological Membrane Vesicles, Rothman/Schekman/+, 19-1
Techniques in DNA Synthesis, Caruthers/Hood/+, 19-1
Modern Surface Chemistry, Somorjai, 29-1
Molecular Structure of the Ribosome, Steitz/Moore/Yonath/+/–, 29-1
Telomeres Telomerases, Blackburn/Greider/Szostak, 29-1
Application of Lasers to the Study of Chemical Reactions, Zare, 39-1
Bioinorganic Chemistry, Lippard/Holm/Gray/+/–, 39-1
Mechanistic Enzymology, Walsh/Knowles, 49-1
Fluorocarbons, DuPont/Curran/–, 49-1
Combinatorial Chemistry/DOS, Schreiber/+, 49-1
Pigments of Life, Battersby/+, 49-1
Global Warming, Thatcher/Gore, 99-1
Dendrimers, Frechet/Tomalia/+, 99-1
Development of the Birth Control Pill, Djerassi, 99-1
Development of Chemical Biology, Schultz/Schreiber/+, 99-1
Molecular Modeling and Assorted Applications, Karplus/Houk/Schleyer/+/–, 99-1
Contributions to Organic Synthesis, Danishefsky/Nicolaou/Evans/Ley/Trost/Stork/Wender/Kishi/+/–, 199-1
Application of NMR to Organic Chemistry, Roberts, 199-1
Understanding of Organic Stereochemistry, Mislow, 199-1
Mechanical Bonds and Applications, Sauvage/Stoddart/+, 199-1
Nobel Gas Reactivity
, Bartlett/+, 199-1
Molecular Recognition, Dervan/+, 399-1
Contributions to Bioorganic Chemistry, Westheimer/Breslow/+, 399-1
Development of Nanotechnology, Lieber/Whitesides/Alivisatos/Seeman/+/–, 399-1
Molecular Machines, Stoddart/Tour/+/–, 499-1
Studies in the Origin of Life, Miller/Orgel/+/–, 99999-1

Past Awards the “Pre-Nobels”
Past Nobel Prizes in Chemistry
Lasker Award for Basic Research
Wolf Prize in Chemistry
Welch Award in Chemistry
Kyoto Prize
Von Hippel Award
Science Magazine’s Breakthroughs of the Year

The History of GFP
A Really Biased History of the Global Warming Issue
History of Noble Gas Compounds

Buzz in the Blogosphere
Derek Lowe, In the Pipeline: 2005, 2006
Sceptical Chymist: 2006
Curious Wavefunction: 2006
Endless Frontier: 2006-1, 2006-2, 2006-3

83 Responses to Nobel Prize in Chemistry: The 2007 Line

  1. bibi Says:

    Excuse me, but why Wender and not Overman in the contribution to organic synthesis ? Just a question

  2. Kutti Says:

    What about Horst Kessler for his contributions to NMR At least in Germany, he is considered as the NMR God.

  3. Paul Says:

    You can add Overman to that listthats what the + indicates.  Still, I think the odds are pretty slim that well see a total-synthesis chemist take home the Nobel this year.

    Im not familiar with Kesslers work, Ill give him a look.

  4. Bibi Says:

    Paul, why is the work on the origin of life going (according to you) to be this years Nobel ? I am not familiar with this topic, so do you have any reading suggestion ?

  5. Paul Says:

    When someone gives you odds of 99999-to-1, it means that if you bet $1 and win, youll get $99,999 plus your $1 bet back.

    Thus, I think that the origin of life has a one in one-hundred thousand chance of winning. (It was a joke).

  6. pi* Says:

    If wender or overman win this years nobel prize i will give you my.I simply have nothing that is worth enough to cover the odds.
    Are you serious?

  7. fzcubed Says:

    Gerhard Ertl should be added to the list of surface chemists. He is truly remarkable.

  8. excimer Says:

    I think dendrimers should be lower on the list. As someone who used to do research with them, I can say with some certainty that their heyday has come and gone, and their usefulness is restricted to their relative difficulty of synthesis (compared to most polymers), and so probably shouldnt be awarded with a Nobel. Its a neat idea, but in terms of polymers, the development of living polymerization (which was in part honored with a Nobel in 2005) is a much more significant advance in the field.

    Djerassis pill should probably be on the list for the Nobel in Medicine. Important a development as it was, hell most likely never get a Nobel for it. Also Thatcher and Gore is pretty dubious as well- politicians dont get science Nobels, last time I checked.

    Id be remiss if I didnt explain Excimers Theory of Getting Screwed Over by Nobels. When Excimer was applying to grad school, he wanted to work for Grubbs. He applied to CalTech. Grubbs gets a Nobel soon afterward. Excimer doesnt get into CalTech. Excimer thinks he knows why (well, aside from not being a very good student) Based on a sample size of 1, it works every time. Excimer has toyed around with doing a postdoc with Whitesides. Just calling it now, based on a highly scientific review process.

  9. Wavefunction Says:

    ErrGore/Thatcher for Chemistry? Peace perhaps? Also, Allinger should be added to the Mol. Mod. cabal

  10. Matt J. Says:

    I could see Gore/Thatcher being lumped into science with their global warming warnings. And, with that said, I could see them coming in with better odds, just based on the climate (heh) of science and politics these past few months.

  11. TheMatt Says:

    Poor theoretical chemists. It seems like only Martin Karplus and friends can make these lists. So, once again I will come out and say: Rick Heller. Maybe hes too physics-y for the now almost biology chemistry prize?

  12. Paul Says:

    Well, it looks like Westheimer wont win, although you can make a good argument that he should have:

  13. Paul Says:

    Heres another obit:

  14. Darksyde Says:

    as with last year: Astrochemistry (terrestrial isolation, characterization, and detection of exotic ions in space (H3+, CH5+, etc)):

    Oka, etc.

  15. Nate Says:

    What about putting one for zeolites on the list? Their utility is certainly important and broad enough as they are used everywhere, from cracking petroleum to drying solvents.

  16. Hap Says:

    Should fluorocarbons be that high on the list? Teflon and the other fluorocarbon agents are really useful, but considering the current issues on the fluorocarbon waterproofers (or their precursors/reaction products), people might be having second thoughts. (Who would get it?)

    Fluorous chemistry is a neat idea, but it seems too expensive and proprietary (and unscalable) to be generally useful. Is fluorous chemistry used significantly in industry or other general applications?

  17. Paul Says:

    I think that, one day, the Nobel committee might award a science prize to an organization, much like it does with the peace prize. Thus, DuPont could be in the mix for fluorocarbons. And now that you mention it, 2% is too high.

    I dont know whom to give it to for zeolites; Ill look into it.

    Identification of molecules in space might have a better shot at the physics prize. It would have pretty long odds in chemistry.

  18. Wavefunction Says:

    GIve the zeolite prize to Edith Flanigen. Sorry to hear about Westheimer.

  19. Anonymous Says:


    There is no way that Ptashne cant win it after last years award. You better push those odds to the other end of the scale (past Orgel, Miller, and Urey). All of my transcription friends had the same impression after hearing the awardees for 2006 (too bad for Ptashne, he is never going to win now).

  20. Wolfie Says:

    Im confused. Ruth Westheimer wins the Nobel Prize ? For what please ? Who tries to associate anything else ?

  21. Paul Says:

    #19: I assume youre talking about the medicine and physiology prize going to Fire Mello? It would seem that leaves the door wide open for Ptashne in chemistry, although the committee might not want to cram biology prizes back-to-back. Regardless, Ptashne strikes me as someone whos got to win someday, kind of like how the olefin metathesis people were locks.

  22. Anonymouse Says:

    I will never know why the metathesis folks were lost when the pioneers of Pd Chemistry will probably never be recognized. You can find plenty of journals with no regular use of metathesis, but try to find a single issue of any of the important organic chemistry journals free from the influence of Pd. Chemistry. You wont. I believe the metathesis chemistry was fully worthy of the award, but I believe that Pd. Chemistry is far far more important to the everyday life of the typical 21st century chemist. Unfortunately for Dick Heck and Tsuji the rise of Pd chemistry was so slow that it almost snuck up on the chemical community.

  23. Matt J. Says:

    So, would Buchwald get lumped in with the palladium-chemists. Im with anonymouse on this one: palladium has made so much of synthesis so much easier that they really do deserve recognition other than the fawning of people like me on chemical blogs.

  24. Phlogiston Says:

    Pd cross-coupling definately deserves a nobel, but unfortunately there are too many big contributors, so a few people will be left out on the cold. Nonetheless, they should still give it to some combo of three people (Suzuki for sure).

  25. Jose Says:

    Out of all the synth jocks listed the only one who deserves a Nobel is Kishi; the citation should read, For extreme badness (palytoxin). However, his publications are such travesties that maybe no one really knows what the hell he has been doing all these years.

  26. HB Says:

    Chemists Talking Chemistry? It really looks more like this is name-dropping and gossip blog. Wheres the chemistry?

  27. Hap Says:

    Jose: Have you ever found Kishis full paper on palytoxin? All Ive ever seen is his paper on the thallium-mediated fragment Suzuki coupling - but the 45-carbon fragments with 30+ stereocenters had to come from somewhere

  28. Anonymous Says:

    For me the Nobel prize has to be about breakthroughs. So after Corey I dont think anyone else can get an award on contributions to organic synthesis.

    In terms on impact on society in general as well as excellence in chemistry and related sciences I think someone / some people from the field of liquid crystals deserve a shout.


  29. Jose Says:

    Hap- there is a series of 4 or 5 JACS communications, and thats it. Theyre a mess, and pretty much unreadable. You could seriously spend days following all the notes and references and still not be able to unravel it all, and there is no real disussion about selectivity, unusual reaction conditions, etc. Its a shame really; so much good work, and I dont think 30% ever saw the light of day.

  30. Hap Says:

    Prof. Kishi has done neat work, but isnt a great deal of the point of science funding to gain a greater understanding of what is happening in complex systems? Debt of Honor (Clancy) had the quote, If you dont write it down, it never happened., and that seems apropos here - if only a few of Kishis graduate students and postdocs (and Prof. Kishi) understand (or even know about) what went on in those syntheses, then eventually (or rapidly), the information someone/something spent a whole lot of money and time to gain will be irretrievably lost. (Woodward had the problem as well, Ive heard, though not as badly as Kishi).

  31. Herman Blume Says:

    Youve got to put Bobby Langer on the list, he is a perennial favorite. Also wondering if Brus & Co. deserve it (nanodots, quantum dots, nanoparticles). My pick this year was Al Cotton (quadruple bond), but sadly no longer. Now its gotta be the cross couplings or Hary & crew, although Curran is an interesting choice.


  32. Herman Blume Says:

    This might help, the nobel committee this year.

    Nobel Committee for Chemistry 2007
    Gunnar von Heijne (Chairman)
    Professor of Theoretical Chemistry

    Astrid Gräslund (Secretary)
    Professor of Biophysics

    Professor Sven Lidin (Member)
    Professor of Inorganic Chemistry

    Anders Liljas (Member)
    Professor of Molecular Biophysics

    Lars Thelander (Member)
    Professor of Physiological Chemistry

    Håkan Wennerström (Member)
    Professor of Theoretical Physical Chemistry

  33. Jose Says:

    Hap- my understanding is that there was a lot of work that RBW never had the time to write up (like the entire posthumous Tet issue devoted to chlorophyll). The papers he did write are staggeringly well written, IMO. Kishi publishes most everything as a note, with no details. See for example Total Syn of Pinnatoxin A, JACS 1998 (120) 7647-7648. It is a chiral cluster* of a beast, and all we get is a two page note?

  34. Hap Says:

    I got the CHF book on RBW, and it has a lot of papers from him that dont suck (and the experimentals are pretty good). The papers are well-written (though, in the historical paper on the quinine synthesis, at least one of the reviewers complained about RBWs use of language). I cant find the reference to RBWs having not published lots of things, so it could be as you said.

    The only argument I could make for Kishi is that comms. now would require lots of SI, and before 2000 that wasnt really an option - the only way to get SI would have been from the author directly (Of course one might want to publish a full paper in that case, but) Some of his more recent communications are better, though still fragmented and selective in experimental (one of his fungal product/NMR papers uses one of four similar ones as an example, and gives only final data for the other three).

  35. First Class Tickets to Stockholm « Lamentations on Chemistry Says:

    [] First Class Tickets to Stockholm The buzz has begun for the 2007 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  Over at ChemBark a list of fields and potential awardees is presented.  Odds are offered.  It is interesting to ponder.  In case you were wondering, the identities of the awards committee for 2007 is actually published. []

  36. Slanderer Says:

    Sorry for hijacking the thread.

  37. accurate Says:

    I think you did not spell Caruthers correctly

  38. Paul Says:

    Fixed. Thanks.

  39. European Chemist Says:

    Its nice to see that this kind of thread always makes people talk and talk. The thing is, can we really know what goes through the head of the Nobel comittee? At least there are no Organic Chemists so no Organic or Organometallic awards this year. I totally agree with the comments on Palladium chemistry, but that Award is completely lost - too many people made important contributions (Heck, Tsuji, Suzuki, Trost, Sonogashira, not in any order, just to name a few). The Metathesis award was also close to getting the same, with folks like Furstner and Hoveyda digging deeper and deeper into the field. Luckily (for Dick Schrock and Bob Grubbs and notre ami Chauvin) the award was given soon enough.

    Im voting for anything more physical chemistry this year. Organic-like stuff might come back in 2 or 3 years. Biostuff will also probably wait until next year. Maybe Whitesides will get it at last?.. ;-)

  40. Ψ*Ψ Says:

    If another biologist gets the Chemistry Nobel this year, Im gonna rip my hair out.

  41. SSBiochem Says:

    The structural biologists have had their day (year?). I agree that Ptashne should get the hardware someday. Chemistry would be a stretch, though.

  42. Mike Says:

    Roger Tsien is overdue. I must have read 20 or so papers of his on GFP recently. On the other hand, his work all happend in the last 2 centuries, so he might have to wait a little longer. Afaik, RNAi was thus far the swiftest Nobel prize award ever with 1996-2006.

  43. Jose Says:

    Hap- in the end, it is up to the reviewers. The thinking is probably along the lines of Well, if Yoshito thinks it is ready to publish, thats enough for me. Reminds me of a discussion I heard once, where someone was wondering exactly how bad of a paper EJ could get into JACS- scribbles on a napkin? A piece of TP?

  44. Anonymous Says:

    Paul, re post #21, it would be a minor miracle if Ptashne could get it b/c of the award last year for transcription (Kornberg).

  45. Anonymous Says:


    It is Shimomura/Prasher/Tsien for fluorescent proteins (in that order).

  46. Paul Says:

    Yeah, those are the three that should get it, but the only way that in that order is applicable is if youre referring to chronology.

  47. Shrug Says:

    Mike (#42):

    The STM was invented in 1981 and won the Physics prize in 1986.

  48. Paul Says:

    And fullerenes had a pretty quick turnaround (1985 discovery, 1996 prize), though a lot of people think it wasnt deserving (then, or now).

  49. lab chemist Says:

    I noticed Professor Abeles is listed for mechanistic enzymology. Is this Robert Abeles of Brandeis? I dont think hes alive. Or am I mistaken?

  50. albert Says:

    Ptashne is a possible but insiders know he did not discover functional domains in regulatory proteins which is part of his claim to fame in this area.

  51. excimer Says:

    Raman discovered the scattering that bears his name in 1928; he won the Nobel prize in physics for this work in 1930. I doubt many are willing to argue it wasnt warranted, despite the expediency. Science shot people to fame quicker back then.

  52. Axicon Says:

    Single Molecule Microscopy ought to be in the running. I would put it at 49-1.
    Obviously W.E. Moerner would be in the list.

  53. Paul Says:

    Youre right about Abeleshes dead and stratched.

  54. accurate Says:

    #51: Exactly. The Nobel was made for great contributions during the year

  55. Wolfie Says:

    Glad you finally deleted Westheimer. Shes only good for personal, not for chemical problems.

  56. EP Says:

    With all due respect to Paul who lives upwind (and at the risk of being screened out) the only recognition DuPont deserves is by way of a warrant

    So far as nominees, if were opening nominations to Biologists Im throwing my vote (and sway the votes of others) to Ptashne. He is, after all, the only one who seems to have fully grasped the meaning of epigenetics; and the ferociousness with which he corrects those who use it in error is something to be rewarded! Even #19 agrees (well, at first). If were limiting ourselves to nominating chemists, I may have to go with Sir Fraser for his many, many contributions to supramolecular chemistry and nanotechnology. Based on Pauls list, it may be the best $1 I ever spent!

  57. CIP Says:

    Will Ralph Hirschmann ever get any consideration?

  58. Zeolite Says:

    I agree with Nate on putting the zeolites on the list. To whom I dont know though but I think it should definitely be up there!

  59. Biochemie Says:

    Well, Ptashne is out I agree unless you bundle him with a bunch of others. He is best known for his little book on the lambda switch. I dont think Dervan has a chance either. His polyamides dont seem to really work to regulate transcription- see his favorite ex-student Peter Schultzs paper for support on this. But then again you guys think Schreiber and Schultz might get one for chemical biology? Plenty of people put unusual amino acids into proteins before Schultz and no one can identify a significant Schreiber event except his renaming of old areas. Chemical genetics? What do you think drug companies did long before Schreiber got his first C in biology?

    How about Victor Ambrose for microRNAs..there are more prizes for the next best thing since DNA.

  60. kevin Says:

    Barry M. Trost should get it for his outstanding contribution to organic chemistry

  61. milkshake Says:

    I think he thinks that too/

  62. Kevin Says:

    probablybut he definitely deserves it!

  63. Anonymous Says:


  64. Anonymous Says:

    Well, have you guys seen what is filling pharmas pipeline in recent years??? Hint: They are not small organic molecules made with metathesis reactions.
    Answer: Antibody drugs made by protein engineering approaches developed in Cambridge, UK and Scripps. RNAi is at least two decades behind antibodies in the clinic.

    Money on Winter, Lerner, Barbas, Smith

  65. Ludwig Says:

    I thought Barbas was suppossed to get the Organoprize with MacMillan.

    I saw MacMillan recently and he is already giving his acceptance speach. Are you allowed to get the prize if you give the acceptance speach 100 times before? I think MacMillan will be happy as long as he is not also sharing with List.

    Someone told me Barbas is still in his 30s, has hundreds of papers and drives a Aston Martin. How can that be true? What does Scripps pay these guys?

  66. milkshake Says:

    less than 200k. My guess it is more like 150k - because 2 years ago the salary figure of KCN was published and it was mentioned that he was the highest-paid faculty member. The figure was about 195k if I remember correctly.

    Most of money that the high-profile profs make is from consulting or from serving on scientific advisory boars of startups. One good IPO and you are set.

  67. Nagesh Says:

    what about the area of controlled radical polymerizations?

  68. Herman Blume Says:

    What?!?! Just two years back the polymer people got it, well maybe organometalics, and possibly inorganics. And if you believe that, then I would argue that the 2001 prize is largely organometalics and possibly inorganic, although the organic guys would like to claim them as a splinter group called asymmetrics.
    D. MacMillan will not get it this year, doesnt anybody remember Hajos & Parrish (JOC 1974 1615)? Hajos $ Parrish might get it with some kinetics people, but not this year. Then again, the rules to getting a nobel prize: 1) make your mom or dad win one, 2) rediscover something old and give it a flashy new name like organocatalysis or metathesis, and 3) name whatever you rediscover after yourself (Katzs big mistake). For example the Herman Blume reaction, the Herman Blume catalyst, and Herman Blume Industries. And then you get a free trip to lovely sweden in the middle of winter.
    Considering the committee this year, its gonna go Karplus, olde Uncle Harry (Gray), or to the medical people again (I am sure they can find another cool crystal structure in Nature). Also remember that Richie Lerner is a member of the swedish academy of medicine, not chemistry. I am not sure if this helps or hurts his chances in chemistry or medicine.


  69. Herman Blume Says:

    Scripps doesnt pay its faculty directly, once you get tenure it all comes out of your grants. Scripps is special in that respect as well as the fact that most of the faculty have ownership of a company or companies; or as previously stated are on the payroll of a company (or companies) in various roles. I would be surprised though if KCN was the richest, I would think Richie Lerner, Kelly, Schultz, or Schimmel. Forget Aston Martins, Schimmel has his own airplane.


  70. Insider Says:

    Wrongo, Herman. Scripps pays its faculty a very meager base salary and if they have a position they get both institutional money and a salary jump, which is why KCN would have the highest salary (they want to keep him as chemistry dept head, apparently).

    Schimmel has the highest net worth, (in the 10^9-10^10 range, or so goes Jamie Williamsons joke). However, KCNs annual seems rather hard to beat (except by Schultz, Schimmel, or Lerner) someone told me he pulls to the tune of 6M a year. One word: Consultancy.

  71. Herman Blume Says:

    I guess Ill have to take your word on the meager base salary, sounds like you are in the know on this one. But I thought the salary was phased out as the young profs got tenure?

    I forgot KCN was the chair, and that would make sense that he makes more salary then the others. I never found out how Schimmel got so rich, can you help us out? I would think its hard to make that much consulting. I also heard, in addition to his airplane that he lives on mount Soledad and bought his neighbors house when he moved and had it leveled for a better view. I am under the impression that property up there is pricey.


  72. Insider Says:

    Yes, Herman, I was the one who told you that story.

    Schimmel made his dough by investing in the right startups and also playing the market with some big name biotechs that actually became competitors to old pharma and then started expanding and buying up the other biotechs.

    But I thought the salary was phased out as the young profs got tenure?

    You could be right about that one. Im not as in the know as you might think.

  73. Barry Says:

    I would suggest that Noller, Steitz and Moore would be a better choice for the structural basis of translation.

  74. Herman Blume Says:

    Jesus Christ! I get the feeling everybody else on here is just down the hall and we would all be better served going to a bar and chatting in real time. Why the hell do you have TWO OR MORE aliases? Stick to one or the other.


  75. Herman Blume Says:

    BTW. Next week Gray, Karplus, or the Biowackers.


  76. not excimer Says:

    I dont know what youre talking about, Herman.

  77. Stuart Says:

    How about crystal engineering - Robson and Desiraju. There are whole journals dedicated to this now.

    Just as long as it doesnt go biomedical again, although the selection committee doesnt fill me with confidence (and explains a lot)

  78. anonymous Says:

    Eschenmoser is overdue, and Stork as well. For their pioneering contributions to asymmetric synthesis

  79. Anonymouse Says:

    Come on Dick Heck: Discovered the Heck Reaction, The Sonogashira Reaction, Carbonylation to Esters and Amides, did the Suzuki reaction before Suzuki, and was the first to use formate and Pd-C in reductions. And before he retired because the NSF wasnt funding him anymore he was doing Pd catalyzed C-H activation chemistry 15 years before the rest of the world took notice.

  80. » The Medicine Nobel « e pur si muove - recherche en dépaysement Says:

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  81. ChemBark » Blog Archive » The 2007 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Part II Says:

    [] Anonymouse in Nobel Prize in Chemistry: The 2007 Line []

  82. kuato Says:

    Bob Roeder is the one who really got screwed with the Kornberg prize last year. Not Ptashne, who is a total clown. Bob discovered all of the RNA polymerases, and has since (with Tjian) made most of the important discoveries in the transcription field.

  83. Anonymous Says:

    ertle, not deserving IMO

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