It is a special honor receiving the Nobel Prize and this year, almost half of those honored with the prize are immigrants. One of the winning chemists, Martin Karplus is an Austrian-born chemist who escaped the Nazis on a boat to the U.S. This same man is now receiving one of the highest honors for his achievement and contributions to science.
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These awards highlight not only these people’s contributions to their field of sciences, but to the advance of science in the U.S. All three winners for Chemistry were immigrants who became citizens. Karplus, South-African born Michael Levitt and Israeli born Arieh Warshel shared the chemistry award proudly. They received the award for developing a new way to do chemistry on the computer. As a result of their work, simulations can become so realistic that they can predict the outcome of traditional experiments. This discovery can be used to predict chemical reactions that are used in developing new drugs.
Another immigrant honoree, German-born Thomas C. Sudhof, received an award for discovering a method to regulate vesicle traffic, which is a major transport system in our cells. Their work is vital to Alzheimer’s research and understanding autism.
Immigrants have been winning Nobel Prizes since 1906 where 32 percent of all Nobel prizes were given to immigrants. The U.S. has produced more science Nobel laureates than any other nation. With immigrants making up more than 40 percent of STEM students, it is difficult for these STEM graduates to stay in the U.S. because of the difficulty of attaining a visa.
The immigrant Nobel Prize winners emphasize the importance of contributions that immigrants make to the sciences in the U.S. More than just awards, these immigrants are helping us understand our world and bodies. If our immigration system cannot meet the demands of sciences, it can jeopardize life threatening future scientific achievements.
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