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Nobel Prize

Who will win the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry? Chemists make their predictions

mRNA vaccines, biorthogonal chemistry, and controlled radical polymerization remain favorites during annual #ChemNobel predictions webinar

by Laura Howes
September 29, 2022


The 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, and K. Barry Sharpless for their work on bioorthogonal chemistry and click reactions. Read our story here.

‘Tis the season—Nobel season, that is. In chemistry labs and magazine newsrooms, speculation has begun about who might win this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry. As in previous years, C&EN teamed up with ACS Webinars to join in the anticipatory excitement with a Nobel predictions webinar before next week’s announcement (ACS publishes C&EN).

Credit: C&EN/ACS Webinars
Watch this recorded webinar to see discussion of Nobel-worthy chemistry and predictions on who might take home this year’s big prize.

Stephen Davey, chief editor of Nature Reviews Chemistry, Helen Tran of the University of Toronto, and Guillermo Restrepo of the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences joined C&EN senior editor Laura Howes on Sept. 29 for the hour-long webinar. The group discussed Restrepo’s analysis of how the chemistry prize has rewarded more biological chemistry in recent years. The panel also prognosticated how the prize might change in the future.

As ever, though, the main draw was hearing the panelists’ predictions for who might be getting a call from Sweden this year. As in 2021, many of the panelists thought that the COVID-19 pandemic might influence the identity of the chemistry laureate, although that did not turn out to be the case last year. The audience agreed, overwhelmingly voting to choose mRNA vaccine enablers Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó as the predicted winners, for the second year in a row.

Others beyond the #ChemNobel webinar have added more names to the mix. ChemistryViews magazine, published by Chemistry Europe, has been polling its readers for who they think might win. The poll results suggest that an American biochemist will most likely be the winner. Readers put forth names including MOF-meister Omar M. Yaghi, biochemist Chi-Huey Wong, and protein structure predictor John Jumper.

Stuart Cantrill, a long time #ChemNobel predictor, ran his annual poll of his followers on Twitter. The greatest share of respondents opted for bioorthogonal/click chemistry, as they did last year. Also on Twitter, the ChemBark account run by Paul Bracher updated his odds list of winners. Free-radical polymerization researchers, including Krzysztof Matyjaszewski and Ezio Rizzardo, came out as the favorites.

Using citation data, Clarivate’s Web of Science analysis suggests three possible winners: wearable electronics pioneer Zhenan Bao; electron transport expert Daniel Nocera; or Bonnie Bassler and Peter Greenberg for their work understanding quorum sensing, a form of chemical communication between bacteria.

But nobody will know for sure until next week. The Nobel Prize Committee will announce the winners of the chemistry prize on Oct. 5. Check in with C&EN then to see if any of the webinar predictions come true and to read our coverage of all of the science prizes.


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