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Chemistry
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Credit: Getty Images, PhotoDisc, Jason Reed

The science of chemistry investigates the composition, structure, properties and transformations of substances and elementary forms of matter, primarily at the molecular level. Since 1950, NSF has supported 54 Nobel Laureates in chemistry.

NSF's Chemistry Division, within the directorate for Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MPS), is devoted to supporting chemistry research by the U.S. academic community, but the wide-ranging importance of chemistry doesn't stop there. Other NSF divisions in the MPS, Geosciences, Biological Sciences and Engineering directorates also fund chemistry-related activities.

For more on the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and each of the laureates listed here, see the Nobel Prize Web Site.


2013

MARTIN KARPLUS
MICHAEL LEVITT
ARIEH WARSHEL
“For the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems”. The 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded jointly to Martin Karplus of the Université de Strasbourg, France, and Harvard University, Michael Levitt of Stanford University School of Medicine, and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California.

2012

BRIAN K. KOBILKA “For studies of G-protein-coupled receptors” The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded jointly to Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka for research that reveals the inner workings of an important family of receptors, the G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Each cell in the human body has tiny receptors that enable it to sense its environment so that it can adapt to new situations. There are over 800 GPCRs in the human genome. Kobilka, of the Stanford University School of Medicine, was selected for an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 1977. More recently, he received an International Collaboration in Chemistry award (#1223785) for research on the chemical basis for allosteric regulation of G-protein-coupled receptors.

2010

RICHARD F. HECK
EI-ICHI NEGISHI
“For palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis.” In the Heck reaction, the Negishi coupling and the Suzuki reaction, carbon atoms meet on a palladium atom, where their proximity to one another kick-starts the chemical reaction. NSF has funded Heck and Negishi multiple times since 1977 and 1980 respectively for carbon-based (organic) chemistry research that set the groundwork for the development of these award-winning scientific methods now widely used in medicine/pharmaceuticals, agriculture and electronics.

2009

THOMAS A. STEITZ
“For studies of the structure and function of the ribosome.” Steitz received the prize for showing what the ribosome looks like and how it functions at the atomic level. Ribosomes produce proteins, which in turn control the chemistry in all living organisms. He used a method called X-ray crystallography to map the position for each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome. Steitz, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and professor of chemistry at Yale University and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, received NSF support for research on the structural basis of the molecular mechanism of cellular control in the late 1970s (7725111) and 1980s (8110880, 8316666) and an equipment award (8413761) in 1985.

2008

OSAMU SHIMOMURA
MARTIN CHALFIE
ROGER Y. TSIEN
“For the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP.” This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry rewards the initial discovery of GFP and a series of important developments that led to its use as a tagging tool in bioscience. This glowing marker allows researchers to watch the movements, positions and interactions of tagged proteins. Shimomura, professor emeritus at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass. and Boston University's Medical School, received NSF support for research on the biochemistry of luminescence and the photoprotein aequorin, which is used in monitoring intracellular calcium, from 1979 (7822959) to 1997 (9630861 and 9722982). Chalfie, professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, received NSF funding in 1990 (9019798). Tsien, presently at the University of California at San Diego, received NSF funding in the late 1980s (8714246, 8847134) to establish a center for the study of cell morphology and function at University of California - Berkeley.

2005

ROBERT H. GRUBBS
RICHARD R. SCHROCK
“For the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis” Grubbs and Schrock received the prize for their pioneering work on metathesis. This chemical reaction has become a mainstay of the chemical industry, mainly in the development of pharmaceuticals and of advanced plastic materials, and has greatly advanced the cause of "green chemistry.” NSF has provided extensive support for both Grubbs and Schrock since the 1970s.

GRUBBS
Affiliation: California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, CA
NSF Support: Awards 0443614, 0410425, 0239697, 0111946, 9809856, 9509745, 9313230, 9202583, 9018677, 8922072, 8812094, 8520517, 8214668, 8106810, 8016528, 7918031, 7904814, 7714752, 750779

SCHROCK
Affiliation: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
NSF Support: Awards 0138995, 9988766, 9700736, 9500750, 9312413, 9122827, 9007175, 8822508, 8402892, 8121282, 7607410

2003

PETER AGRE
“For the discovery of water channels.” NSF supported a group of researchers at Johns Hopkins, including Agre, in the purchase of an electron microscope through a 1996 award (see award 9601943). RODERICK MACKINNON
“For structural and mechanistic studies of ion channels.” Roderick MacKinnon of Rockefeller University made discoveries concerning how salts (ions) are transported out of and into the cells of the body, a process necessary for producing electrical signals in the nervous system. MacKinnon determined the structure of the potassium ion channel from studies of the bacterium Streptomyces lividans using the NSF-supported Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source (9713424).

2002

JOHN B. FENN
“For [joint] development of soft desorption ionisation methods for mass spectrometric analyses of biological macromolecules.” NSF support includes 10 awards spanning a quarter century, from 1975 (7521821) through 1999 (9902045).

2001

K. BARRY SHARPLESS
“For his work on chirally catalysed oxidation reactions.” NSF support for Sharpless includes a series of seven awards from 1977 (7714628) to 1999 (9985553).

2000

ALAN J. HEEGER
ALAN MACDIARMID
“For their discovery and development of conductive polymers.” NSF support for Heeger began with a Cooperative Graduate Fellowship (1960) and includes a series of 20 awards from 1965 to 2000 (0099843). MacDiarmid's NSF support began with a 1973 award (7304771), continued through the 1980s and more recently, includes a 2002 award (0221664).

1999

AHMED H. ZEWAIL
“For his studies of the transition states of chemical reactions using femtosecond spectroscopy.” Zewail's studies of the transition states of chemical reactions have revolutionized the field by allowing scientists to understand and predict the detailed course of reactions. His pioneering investigations showed that it is possible with very short-pulsed laser techniques, to see how the atoms in a molecule move. While advancing fundamental understanding of chemical processes, his work has also contributed to multidisciplinary efforts to study and control the chemistry of living systems. NSF has been a major supporter of Zewail's research for over 20 years, beginning in the late 1970s (7719578), and continuing in more than a dozen awards.

1998

WALTER KOHN
JOHN A. POPLE
The prize was awarded jointly to Kohn “for his development of the density-functional theory,” and to Pople “for his development of computational methods in quantum chemistry.” Kohn and Pople have enhanced the understanding of quantum chemistry and advanced methods for theoretical studies of the properties of molecules. NSF support for Kohn includes an NSF Fellowship, as well as more than a dozen awards from 1966 through 2003 (0313980). Pople's NSF support includes an award from 1965 for theoretical chemical physics, and seven awards from 1970 (7002086) to 1996 (9629964).

1997

PAUL D. BOYER
“For elucidation of the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).” NSF support started with an award in 1953 and continued through electronically-accessible awards in the 1970s and early 1980s (7202462, 7518884, 8100817).

1996

ROBERT F. CURL JR.
RICHARD E. SMALLEY
“For the [joint] discovery of fullerenes.” Curl's NSF support began with an NSF Fellowship (1954) and includes at least 16 awards from 1965 to 2001 (0111125). NSF support for Smalley dates to the late 1970s (7704378) and has continued through 2003 (0321240). Smalley was also the founding director of the NSF-supported Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology at Rice University.

1995

PAUL J. CRUTZEN
MARIO J. MOLINA
F. SHERWOOD ROWLAND
“For their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone.” NSF has supported Crutzen as a member of the Center for Clouds, Chemistry and Climate at SIO, an NSF Science and Technology Center (8920119, 9405024), acknowledged by Crutzen in his Nobel Lecture. More recently, Crutzen--now at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography--has been supported by a 2000 award (0001424). Molina's NSF support dates to the mid-1970s (7624419) and includes nine awards through 2003 (0308748). NSF support for Rowland includes a series of awards spanning from 1978 (7810315) to 2001 (0116747).

1994

GEORGE A. OLAH
“For his contribution to carbocation chemistry.” NSF support includes a dozen awards from the 1970s (7308526) to 2001 (0102258).

1992

RUDOLPH A. MARCUS
“For his contributions to the theory of electron transfer reactions in chemical systems.” NSF support began with a chemistry award in 1957 and includes 10 electronically-available awards from 1972 (7204610) to 2002 (0212942).

1990

ELIAS J. COREY
“For his development of the theory and methodology of organic synthesis.” NSF support began with chemistry awards in 1955 and 1957 and includes six electronically-available awards from 1975 (7504124) to 1998 (9811917).

1989

SIDNEY ALTMAN
THOMAS R. CECH
“For their discovery of catalytic properties of RNA.” NSF support for Altman includes six awards from the late 1970s (7904054) to the 1990s (9101670). Cech's NSF support includes an NSF Fellowship and a 1985 award (8501622).

1987

DONALD J. CRAM
“For [joint] development and use of molecules with structure-specific interactions of high selectivity.” NSF support dates to an award in 1956 and includes seven electronically-accessible awards from 1972 (7204616) to 1990 (9023517).

1986

DUDLEY R. HERSCHBACH
YUAN T. LEE
“For their contributions concerning the dynamics of chemical elementary processes.” NSF support for Herschbach dates back to an NSF Fellowship and a research award in 1964. Herschbach also has 11 electronically-available awards from 1971 (7102601) to 2002 (0210437). Lee's NSF support includes awards in 1979 (7916250) and 1983 (8303208).

1985

HERBERT A. HAUPTMAN
“For [joint] outstanding achievements in the development of direct methods for the determination of crystal structures.” NSF support includes eight awards starting in the mid-1970s (7617582) and as recently as 2002 (0204918).

1984

ROBERT B. MERRIFIELD*
“For his development of methodology for chemical synthesis on a solid matrix.” NSF support includes a 1985 award (8513403) on "Solid Phase Synthesis of Biologically Active Peptides."

1983

HENRY TAUBE
“For his work on the mechanisms of electron transfer reactions, especially in metal complexes.” NSF support dates to his first award in 1958 and includes a dozen awards from 1970 (7002022) to 1997 (9727416).

1981

ROALD HOFFMANN
“For [joint] theories, developed independently, concerning the course of chemical reactions.” NSF support dates back to an NSF Fellowship and spans a series of nearly 20 awards from the 1970s (7606099) to the present (0204841).

1980

PAUL BERG
“For his fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant-DNA.” NSF support includes a 1974 award (7410036) and three other awards that predate electronic records. WALTER GILBERT
“For [joint] contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids.” NSF support includes an NSF Fellowship and at least three other awards spanning three decades (7521164, 8818026, 9510732).

1979

HERBERT C. BROWN
“For[joint] development of the use of boron- and phosphorus-containing compounds, respectively, into important reagents in organic synthesis. “ NSF support dates to early awards in 1952 and 1955 and continued through six more electronically-available awards from the 1970s to the 1990s (7305136, 9012236).

1976

WILLIAM N. LIPSCOMB
“For his studies on the structure of boranes illuminating problems of chemical bonding.” NSF support dates back to a physical chemistry award in 1962 and includes five electronically-available awards from 1976 (7684183) to 1988 (8820590).

1974

PAUL J. FLORY
“For his fundamental achievements, both theoretical and experimental, in the physical chemistry of the macromolecules.” NSF support began with chemistry awards in 1957 and 1958 and includes three electronically-available awards in the 1970s and 1980s (7307655, 7620638, 8006624).

1972

CHRISTIAN B. ANFINSEN*
“For his work on ribonuclease, especially concerning the connection between the amino acid sequence and the biologically active conformation.” Anfinsen was a long-time researcher at the National Institutes of Health before moving to Johns Hopkins University in 1982. NSF made an award to Anfinsen in 1994 (9420228) shortly before his death in May 1995. STANFORD MOORE
WILLIAM H. STEIN
“For their contribution to the understanding of the connection between chemical structure and catalytic activity of the active centre of the ribonuclease molecule.” Moore and Stein jointly acknowledged NSF support to their lab in their Nobel Lecture. Their first chemistry award dates to 1957 and later included a 1977 award (7715791).

1968

LARS ONSAGER*
“For the discovery of the reciprocal relations bearing his name, which are fundamental for the thermodynamics of irreversible processes.” NSF support dates back to chemistry awards in 1956 and 1959 and an electronically-available award in 1975 (7517533), while Onsager was at the University of Miami.

1966

ROBERT S. MULLIKEN*
“For his fundamental work concerning chemical bonds and the electronic structure of molecules by the molecular orbital method.” NSF support began with awards in 1957 and 1958 and continued through an electronically-available award in 1972 (7205112).

1965

ROBERT B. WOODWARD*
“For his outstanding achievements in the art of organic synthesis.” NSF support includes chemistry awards starting in 1956 and 1958, as well as a more recent 1978 award (7825699).

1961

MELVIN CALVIN*
“For his research on the carbon dioxide assimilation in plants.” NSF first supported him with awards in 1961 and 1964.

1960

WILLARD F. LIBBY*
“For his method to use carbon-14 for age determination in archaeology, geology, geophysics and other branches of science.” NSF support dates back to his first award in 1955 as well as a more recent award in 1976 (7614273).

1954

LINUS C. PAULING*
“For his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances.” NSF support dates to a molecular biology award in 1955 and includes a 1980 materials research award (8012728).

1951

GLENN T. SEABORG*
“For [joint] discoveries in the chemistry of the transuranium elements.” NSF supported Seaborg in the 1980s with Elementary, Secondary and Informal Education awards (8652145, 8751459).
Nobel Prizes - The NSF Connection A Special Report