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Three Nemmers Prize winners honored

Northwestern dinner celebrates winners in economics, mathematics and earth sciences

Nemmers prize winners
From left: 2018 Nemmers Prize winners Francis Albarède, David Kreps and Assaf Naor

Northwestern University honored three of its 2018 Nemmers Prize winners with a dinner and awards ceremony May 21 celebrating outstanding achievements in earth sciences, economics and mathematics. 

The three prize winners will receive their medals — and their $200,000 checks — highlighting contributions the winners have made to the Northwestern campus since they were named last year. Provost Jonathan Holloway will provide opening remarks and award the medals.

In all, Northwestern awarded five Nemmers Prizes in 2018, including prizes in music composition and medical science. The prizes for music and medicine were awarded at separate ceremonies.


Francis Albarède, who won the Nemmers Prize in Earth Sciences, spent much of the fall quarter at Northwestern, and provided the keynote for the 2018 Midwest Geobiology Symposium, which was held at Northwestern in September. Albarède, a geochemist, is emeritus professor at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon and adjunct faculty at Rice University in Houston.

While at Northwestern in the fall, he also participated in a weekly seminar series with graduate students and postdoctoral researchers; he presented a public lecture at the Kellogg Global Hub entitled “How Silver Became Money”; and he spoke at the Earth and Planetary Sciences seminar about archeoceanography.

“The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences was thrilled to host Francis this past fall,” said Matt Hurtgen, chair of the department. “While all members of the department relished the opportunity to interact with Francis, I believe the graduate and postdoctoral scholars in particular benefitted immensely from engaging with and learning from such a brilliant scientist and kind person.”

Later this month, Albarède will participate in a field trip to Baraboo, Wisconsin to examine a variety of geological features.

David Kreps, who won the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics, delivered a public lecture May 8 at the James L. Allen Center entitled “Some Dimensions of Behavior with which Economics Should Contend.” Video of the lecture can be found here. Two days later, Kreps participated in a conference in his honor, also at Allen Center.

Kreps serves as the Adams Distinguished Professor of Management, with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Economics at Stanford University.

“As a social science, economics struggles to understand human behavior, but it has a long way to go,” said Lawrence J. Christiano, chair of the Department of Economics at Northwestern. “David Kreps highlights the shortcomings of standard economic tools and is a leader in developing new ways of thinking so that economists can better understand the world we live in.”

Assaf Naor, who won the Frederick Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics, gave a colloquium May 8, and conducted a probability seminar May 14.

Naor, a professor of mathematics at Princeton University, is scheduled to speak at the “CS+Math Workshop on Metric Embeddings and Dimensionality Reduction” workshop May 24-25 at the Mudd Library, room 3514.

“Professor Naor has a wide body of work exhibiting profound linkages between longstanding problems in mathematical analysis and theoretical computer science,” said Eric Zaslow, chair of the Department of Mathematics at Northwestern. “In example after example, he has shown that interesting questions have a universal nature: they appear in distinct fields that might not have talked to one another.” 

Albarède, Kreps and Naor joined Jennifer Higdon, who won the 2018 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition, and Stuart Orkin, who won the 2018 Mechthild Esser Nemmers Prize in Medical Science.

Higdon, the Rock Chair in Composition at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, visited the Bienen School of Music Oct. 15 to 20 for the first of two Nemmers Prize residencies. She coached Bienen School large ensembles and chamber groups, conducted lessons and seminars with composition students, participated in an interdisciplinary panel discussion and attended three Bienen School concerts of her music. 

Orkin, the David G. Nathan Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, was on campus at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in October to deliver a keynote address on “Harnessing genetics to understand and treat blood disorders: GWAS to the clinic.” A video of his address can be found here.

Nemmers Prizes

The cross-disciplinary awards, given every other year, carry some of the largest monetary stipends in their fields. Winners of the prizes in earth sciences, economics, mathematics and medical science each receive $200,000, and the winner in music composition receives $100,000.

Erwin Nemmers served as a faculty member in the Kellogg School of Management from 1957 until he retired in 1986. He persuaded his brother, Frederic Nemmers, to join him in making a significant contribution to Northwestern. Their gifts, totaling $14 million, were designated for the establishment of the Nemmers Prizes and four endowed professorships in Kellogg.

More information about the prizes can be found here.

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