The Nobel Prize winners - Meet the 4 women of 2020

And then there were 61.

Apart from Marie Curie being honored twice, the Nobel Prize and Prize in Economic Sciences have been awarded to women 58 times between 1901 and 2020. Here’s another way of phrasing it. In its 119 years, 6% of the total 962 Nobel Laureates were awarded to women. That said, let’s celebrate the women who have made this year worthy of celebration.

Emmanuelle Charpentier

Chemistry

“My wish is that this will provide a positive message to the young girls who would like to follow the path of science, and to show them that women in science can also have an impact through the research that they are performing.” - 2020 Chemistry Laureate Emmanuelle Charpentier

 

Biochemist, geneticist and microbiologist, currently director of the Department of Pathogen Science at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin (Germany), Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier was named co-winner of this year's 2020 edition along with Jennifer Doudna. The prize rewards their development of the Crispr/Cas9 technology in 2012 capable of modifying human genes.  

This immune defense system of bacterial origin was discovered by Emmanuelle Charpentier. The two laureates then succeeded in recreating in the laboratory these molecular scissors that make it possible to modify the genome of a human, animal, plant or microorganism cell in order to inactivate, correct or replace a gene. This technique has revolutionized research, first in medicine, for the development of gene therapy targeting rare diseases and cancers, and also in agronomy, paving the way for new genetically modifiable seeds.

 

Emmanuelle is now the seventh woman in the world to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, out of 185 laureates. This honour means she joins Marie Curie and her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie in the short list of women to have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. 

 

Jennifer A. Doudna

Chemistry

“One of the problems in the biotech world is the lack of women in leadership roles, and I'd like to see that change by walking the walk.”- 2020 Chemistry Laureate Jennifer A. Doudna

Professor Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier are not only the sixth and seventh women to win in this category but also the first two women to jointly win the chemistry prize with their revolutionary work on Crispr-Cas9. 

Jennifer Anne Doudna is an American biochemist, molecular biologist and geneticist and Professor and Chair in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Their new find enables researchers to now change the DNA of not only plants and microorganisms but also that of animals with extremely high precision. The contribution of this discovery is set to revolutionise the future of cancer therapies and curing inherited diseases

Louise Glück

Literature

“The master said You must write what you see. But what I see does not move me. The master answered Change what you see.” - 2020 Literature Laureate Louise Glück

 

The American poet Louise Glück, 77, won the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday.

She was awarded "for her characteristic poetic voice, which with its austere beauty makes individual existence universal," announced the Swedish Academy in awarding the prize. Louise Glück won the Pullitzer Prize for Poetry in 1993 for her collection The Wild Iris.

 

After a first work entitled Firstborn, the poetess was quickly recognized as one of the most important poets of contemporary American literature. She has published twelve collections and several volumes of essays on poetry. "Her works are characterized by a concern for clarity. Childhood and family life, the close relationship with parents and siblings are themes that have remained central to her," said the Academy. Louise Glück is a professor of English at Yale University.

 

Glück’s poems are about family, childhood, love, death, loss, trauma, isolation, nature, and animals speaking of disillusionment, disenchantment, and changeability of self. She focuses on issues of self in relation to others and to the natural world, and urges us to listen to ourselves, our unheard voices. In her essay “Education of the Poet”, she writes, “The dream of art is not to assert what is already known but to illuminate what has been hidden”. As in her poetry she draws heavily on her life events and sees through a deeply personal lens, she is often called an autobiographical or a confessional poet. Regarding this, chairman of the Nobel Committee Anders Olsson has noted: “In her poems, the self listens for what is left of its dreams and delusions, and nobody can be harder than she in confronting the illusions of the self. But even if Glück would never deny the significance of the autobiographical background, she is not to be regarded as a confessional poet.”


Andrea Ghez

Physics

"I take very seriously the responsibility associated with being the fourth woman to win the Nobel Prize. I hope I can inspire other young women into the field." 2020 Physics Laureate Andrea Ghez

 

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded on Tuesday to Professor Andrea Ghez along with British researcher Roger Penrose and the German Reinhard Genzel and the American for their work on the universe’s notorious mystery objects: black holes. Andrea Ghez was honored for "the discovery of a supermassive compact object in the center of our galaxy.

Only half a century ago, the very existence of black holes was still controversial. Last year, these gigantic objects, reputed to be invisible, were shown for the first time in a revolutionary image, a sign of the progress made in unlocking their galactic secrets.

 

Ghez is well deserving of the Nobel Prize, as her contributions to astronomy are clearly impactful. The discovery of the black hole in the center of our Milky Way, known as Sgr A*, has led to numerous studies about the nature of galaxies, black holes, relativity, and more. In her group at UCLA, Ghez and her collaborators are keeping the momentum going; training the next generation of astronomers, continuing their now decades long observations of stars like S0-2, and working on unraveling new and exciting mysteries at the galactic center.