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Effect of 2018 Nobel Prizes on Diversity and Enhancement of Women

By George B. Kauffman

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Arthur Ashkin (b. 1922), previously of Bell Laboratories, but now working from his home laboratory; Donna Strickland (b. 1959) of the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada); and Gerard Moureau of the Ecole Polytechnique and the University of Michigan “for developing optical tweezers and ultra-short, high-intensity laser pulses.” Strickland was Moureau’s graduate student when they were both at the University of Rochester, and it is the work that they did together in the 1980s that is now recognized.

      The 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Frances H. Arnold (b. 1956), chemist and chemical engineer at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech); George P. Smith (b. 1941), chemist at the University of Missouri; and Sir Gregory P. Winter (b. 1957) for their work toward “harnessing evolution to identify new enzymes and binding proteins.”

      Arnold was the fifth woman to win a Nobel Chemistry Prize, and Strickland was the first woman to win a Nobel Physics Prize in more than 50 years and only the third woman ever to win it. Until this year, only 3% of scientists to win a Nobel Prize had been women.

This year’s selection might indicate a significant shift in diversity for the Nobel Prizes. Those invited to nominate candidates for 2019 will, for the first time, be asked explicitly to consider diversity in their choices.

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George B. Kauffman, Ph.D., chemistry professor emeritus at Fresno State and a Guggenheim Fellow, is a recipient of the American Chemical Society’s George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education, the Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach and the Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution, and numerous domestic and international honors. In 2002 and 2011, he was appointed a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society, respectively.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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