5 women who should have won the Nobel Prize

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He was part of the men’s award-winning line-up last year’s Nobel Prizes in medicine, physics and chemistry, prizes that give recipients access to science’s most prestigious club.

The fact that none of the 2021 winners in those categories was female was, for some critics, further evidence of systemic bias in science, as women were already less likely to be credited or named as lead author on scientific papers, but more and more women participated in scientific ones. research

Still, others say last year’s trend was positive, pointing to a backlash effect from the Nobel committee typically praising progress three or four decades ago, when there were fewer women in top positions in science.

David Pendlebury, senior analyst at Clarivate Analytics, analyzes how often a scientist’s key papers are cited by peers, which he says is an indicator of whether a person will win a Nobel Prize.

“Two decades ago it would be rarer than finding a woman, for example, to be named a citation award winner, but as time goes on, we find it there are more women… at the highest levels of researchers,” she said ahead of 2022 Nobel prize announcements next week. A citation laureate is someone who is most likely to win a Nobel Prize. “That is why I say that it is inevitable that the Nobel Prize will be awarded to more and more women … and it will be more geographically diverse.”

In 2020, two women, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of the CRISPR method for genome editing, while Andrea Ghezek was part of a trio that received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery. of a supermassive black hole. The winners in 2019, when the Nobel committee asked nominees to consider diversity in gender, geography and field, were all men, while in 2018, the first woman laureate in physics since 1963 was Donna Strickland.

It is very difficult to predict who will win the Nobel Prize, an honor established more than a century ago by the Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel. The shortlist is secret, as are the candidates, and documents revealing details of the selection process have been sealed from public view for 50 years. However, there is no shortage of female candidates for the next science prize. Here are five female scientists and their life-changing discoveries.

Genes that cause cancer: In the 1970s, although cancer was sometimes understood to run in families, cancer research focused on viruses. With a background in researching genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees, Dr. Mary-Claire King, now a professor of medicine and genomic sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, took a new approach. A mutation in the BRCA1 gene discovered the role it played in breast and ovarian cancer. The discovery has enabled genetic testing that can identify women at increased risk of breast cancer, as well as risk-reducing steps such as additional screening and preventive surgeries.

Vaccine progress: Dr. Katalin Kariko, senior vice president of Germany-based BioNTech, won a 2021 Lasker award, an honor often seen as a precursor to the Nobel Prize. Along with Drew Weissman, a professor of vaccine research at the University of Pennsylvania, he pioneered a method of using synthetic messenger RNA to fight diseases that involve changing the way the body produces antiviral material. Although their paper received little attention when they published it in 2005, their research it is the basis of the two Covid-19 vaccines that are widely used today.

Katalin Kariko played a key role in the development of mRNA vaccines.

Astronomical curiosity: Northern Irish physicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell helped discover the pulsar, an amazing astronomical phenomenon, as a graduate student at Cambridge University. However, it was his supervisor Antony Hewish, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1974, who was credited with the discovery. In interviews, Bell Burnell has taken the honors aside, saying he was proud to see the stars convince the awards committee. “My contemporaries were more angry about the Nobel than I did not want to be recognized. One gave him the ‘No Bell’ award!’ he said in an interview. In 2018, he was awarded the Special Prize for Advances in Fundamental Physics, which received £2.3 million. He gave money to help people from underrepresented groups become physicists.

The famous Northern astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered the pulsar.

Revolutionary Chemistry: Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi, professor at Stanford University, has pioneered a new field called bioorthogonal chemistry, which is based on chemical reactions inside living cells that can be carried out without interfering with intrinsic cellular processes. He wanted to understand why cells are covered in sugar and how these sugar molecules affect conditions such as cancer, inflammation and bacterial infection. Altering these cells through bioorthogonal chemistry has led to new ways to treat many diseases. This year he won the Chemistry Wolf Prize and is also an active campaigner for LGBT rights.

Carolyn Bertozzi, a Stanford chemist, at Grace Science in Menlo Park, Calif., on Nov. 17, 2019.

Prevention of sickle cell disease: Dr. Marilyn Hughes Gaston devoted much of her life to understanding sickle cell disease, an inherited condition in which the body is unable to produce normal hemoglobin. It affects children, causing tissue damage, causing weakness and even death. Gaston became interested in the condition while practicing at Philadelphia General Hospital in 1964. In 1986, he published the results of a pioneering national study that demonstrated the effectiveness of long-term penicillin treatment in children with sickle cell disease in preventing septic infections. illness. As a result of Gaston’s work, every child is screened for sickle cell at birth. He was also the first African-American to head the US Office of Primary Health Care.

The work of Dr. Marilyn Gaston, left, ensured that babies are screened for sickle cell disease at birth.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine will be awarded on Monday, the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday. The Nobel Prize for Literature and the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Thursday and Friday, respectively.