Here are the predictions on the candidates for the Nobel 2021

Here are the predictions on the candidates for the Nobel 2021

As usual, Clarivate has published the list of scientists in the odor of Nobel. An Italian also appears, the physicist Giorgio Parisi

(Image: Giorgio Parisi) Everything is ready for the most awaited scientific appointment of the year: in the week from 4 to 11 October, in fact, Stockholm will announce the Nobel laureates 2021. It will begin with medicine, Monday 4, and then continue with physics (5 October), chemistry (6 October), and, to follow, literature, peace and economics (7, 8 and 11 October respectively). As usual, the preparation for the Nobel Prizes began with the awarding of their minor cousins, the igNobels, the prizes for science that "first makes you laugh and then makes you think", and continues with the announcement of the list developed. by the experts of Clarivate Analytics, who selected the most eligible candidates for the Nobel by measuring the citations received from their works in other scientific papers and studying the history of the awards. Specifically, the ranking is the result of the analysis conducted by the Institute for Scientific Information (Isi), which every year evaluates the impact of the researchers who have most influenced the international scientific community. Here they are.


Giorgio Parisi

Give us a pinch of healthy chauvinism: let's start with physics, because for the first time since its establishment (the Clarivate ranking is active since 1989) an Italian entered the list. This is the physicist Giorgio Parisi, professor emeritus of Sapienza University of Rome and former president of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, included in the candidates "for his revolutionary discoveries in the field of quantum chromodynamics and the study of complex disordered systems".

Albeit informally, Parisi's name has been associated for several years with the Nobel Prize in Physics ("Some colleague confessed to me that they had nominated me in recent years. But you shouldn't know. It's a secret that the committee of the Nobel Prizes makes public only after 50 years ", Parisi himself said in an interview with Repubblica).

Born in Rome in 1948, Professor Parisi graduated in 1970 with Nicola Cabibbo (also linked to the Nobel, albeit in a rather unfortunate and bizarre way: the Stockholm committee, in 2008, awarded the recognition to two Japanese researchers who had developed one of his ideas, leaving him out of the winners. Let's hope the same will not happen this year) , and continued his career at the National Research Council (Cnr) first and at the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (Infn), also staying for several periods in foreign universities, especially in France and the United States.

In his l A long scientific career has been involved in particle physics, statistical mechanics, condensed matter and much more, obtaining decisive results in each of these areas; he has been awarded all the most prestigious awards in the sector (from the Fields medal to the Wolf Prize, passing through the Max Planck medal and the Boltzmann medal). He only misses the Nobel. For now.

Alexei I. Kitaev

Kitaev is a lecturer at the California Institute of Technology and the Institute of Quantum Information and Matter in Pasadena, California. He was included in Clarivate's list for his studies that contributed to the development of quantum computing, and in particular "for topological quantum computation, in which quantum information is encoded and protected using the topological properties of many-body systems ". Basically, it is a "scheme" in which the transmission of quantum information is protected from possible communication errors (or, more correctly, errors are "corrected") through the intrinsic physical properties of quantum processors. Kitaev's studies laid the mathematical foundations for a new type of quantum computer that uses matter on a macroscopic scale to simulate the behavior of particles on the atomic scale.

Mark EJ Newman

Mark Newman is an Anglo-American physicist, professor of physics at the University of Michigan: he is one of the Nobel candidates "for his wide-ranging research on network systems, including his works on community structures and on models of random graphs ". By "community structure" we mean a property of complex networks that indicates the possibility of grouping the nodes of the network in a certain way: Newman's works have found application in many sectors, including psychology, sociology, economics and biology - for example in studying the risk of forest fires, the social behavior of dolphins and the "density" of US voters. “The structure and function of complex systems”, one of Newman's most important works, was the article that received the most citations, of all those published in the field of mathematics, between 2001 and 2011.

Physiology and medicine

Jean-Pierre Changeaux

Let's move on to medicine. The first candidate indicated by Clarivate is Jean-Pierre Changeaux, professor emeritus at the Collège de France and at the Institute Pasteur in Paris (and in other research institutes). Changeux is a neurobiologist who has dedicated himself to the study of the molecular structure of membrane channels and receptors, which play a fundamental role in the communication system of the nervous system, in learning and in cognitive functions.

It was included in the list, in particular, "for his contributions to our understanding of neuroreceptors and for the identification of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor and its allosteric properties". Specifically, nicotinic receptors are chemical structures that are fundamental for the functioning of the nervous system and perform various tasks, including inducing the contraction of skeletal muscles and promoting the transmission of nerve impulses to organs.

Toshio Hirano and Tadamitsu Kishimoto

Hirano is president of the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology and professor emeritus at Osaka University; Kishimoto is a professor at the same university's Immunology Frontier Resaearch Center. Clarivate mentions them by virtue of the "discovery of interleukin-6 and the description of its physiological and pathological actions that have contributed to the development of drugs".

Interleukin-6 is a molecule secreted by the body to stimulate immune defenses, for example during an infection or following a trauma, and is also closely linked to the so-called inflammatory storms that can arise (among other things) following Covid-19 infection. After infection, in fact, several cells of the immune system produce and release large quantities of interleukin-6, which in turn triggers the production of other pro-inflammatory proteins. A disproportionate reaction that can lead the immune system to attack not only pathogens, but also healthy organs, as typically occurs in so-called autoimmune diseases.

Karl M. Johnson and Ho Wang Lee

Johnson is a professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico, while Lee is the former president of the South Korean National Academy of Sciences. They are the two virologists who identified and isolated the Hantaan virus (hantavirus), responsible for haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome: it is a pathogen spread by various species of wild and domestic rodents, transmitted to humans through inhalation or contact with urine , excrement or saliva of an infected animal. Haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, one of the effects of hantavirus infection, is characterized by fever, abdominal pain, headache, back pain and gastrointestinal syndromes and, in severe cases, by internal bleeding which, in a small percentage of cases, can be fatal.


Barry Halliwell

Let's get to chemistry. Halliwell, a professor at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and a member of dozens of scientific societies, is a possible Nobel laureate by virtue of his "pioneering research in the study of free radicals, including the study of their role and that of antioxidants in human diseases. ". Already in the seventies Halliwell had been noted for his works on plants, and in particular for the discovery of the so-called glutathione-ascorbate cycle, a metabolic process of plants; later, he devoted himself to the study of free radicals: he demonstrated the toxicity of the hydroxyl radical, a metabolite of superoxides, and developed methods to measure the levels of free radicals and to quantify the damage they cause in human DNA. In recent years, he has also focused on the role of free radicals and antioxidants in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

William L. Jorgensen

“For his studies in the field of computational chemistry of organic and biomolecular systems in solution, which have contributed to the design and synthesis of new drugs ”: this is the reasoning for William Jorgensen's inclusion in the list of candidates for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The scientist, a professor of chemistry at Yale University, devoted himself to calculating the free energy of reactions using both analytical and numerical techniques; more generally, his research objectives are the development of theoretical and computational methods to better understand, and quantitatively measure, the structure and reactivity of organic and biomolecular systems. Jorgensen also contributed to the synthesis of so-called reverse transcriptase inhibitors, a class of antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV infection and AIDS.

Mitsuo Sawamoto

Last but not least, the ranking ends with Mitsuo Sawamoto, a Japanese chemist working at Kyoto University specializing in the field of polymer chemistry. In particular, Sawamoto discovered the first cationic polymerization process in living beings and realized the first live free radical polymerization, a technique that allows to control the polymerization process in order to reduce the concentration of radicals.

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