Skip to main content

Northwestern announces 2020 Nemmers Prize winners

First woman selected to receive the Nemmers Prize for Economics

Northwestern University has announced the winners of the 2020 Nemmers Prizes in medical science, earth sciences, economics and mathematics. The biennial prizes recognize top scholars for their lasting significance, outstanding achievements, contributions to new knowledge and the development of significant new modes of analysis.

This year’s recipients are Dr. David M. Sabatini for medical science, Nalini Anantharaman for mathematics, Katherine Freeman for earth sciences and Claudia Goldin for economics. Each will receive a $200,000 stipend and will interact with Northwestern faculty and students through lectures, conferences or seminars.

The Nemmers Prizes are named for the family of Erwin Nemmers, a former faculty member in the Kellogg School of Management from 1957 to 1986. Erwin Nemmers persuaded his brother, Frederic Nemmers, to join him in making a significant contribution to Northwestern. Their gifts, totaling $14 million, were designated to establish four endowed professorships in Kellogg and the Nemmers Prizes, which carry some of the largest monetary stipends in each field.

This year’s winners 

Dr. David M. Sabatini, professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, member of the Whitehead Institute and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator known for his landmark discoveries in the area of cell signaling and growth regulation, is the recipient of the Mechthild Esser Nemmers Prize in Medical Science at Northwestern University.

David Sabatini
David Sabatini

Sabatini, a prolific investigator who is also a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, and senior associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, studies the pathways that regulate growth and metabolism, and how they are deregulated in diseases like cancer and diabetes.

Sabatini discovered the mTOR protein as a graduate student, and his subsequent influential studies uncovered many of the components of the pathway and its role in regulating organisms’ growth. His work opened up vital avenues for further research into potential treatments for a variety of diseases and conditions, including cancer, epilepsy and diabetes. His cell signaling insights elucidated the mechanisms that regulate and coordinate growth with the availability of nutrients, providing essential insights into the connections between energy, metabolism and aging.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and has been awarded the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences, the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biology and Biomedicine, the Sjöberg Prize and the NAS Award in Molecular Biology among other honors.

anantharaman nemmers prize
Nalini Anantharaman

Nalini Anantharaman is the winner of the Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics. She was selected “for her profound contributions to microlocal analysis and mathematical physics, in particular to problems of localization and delocalization of eigenfunctions.”

A French mathematician, Anantharaman is a professor at the Institute for Advanced Mathematical Research at the University of Strasbourg. She studies quantum chaos, dynamical systems and the Shrödinger equation. More recently, she has studied harmonic analysis on large graphs. She has received several major awards, including the 2012 Henri Poincaré Prize, the Salem Prize, the Grand Prix Jacques Herbrand and the Infosys Prize.

Katherine H. Freeman received the Nemmers Prize in Earth Sciences, honored “for her pioneering and continued contributions to development of the field of compound-specific stable isotope geochemistry and its application to fundamental problems in Earth science.”

freeman nemmers prize
Katherine Freeman

The Evan Pugh University Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Freeman studies organic molecules from ancient organisms — such as algae, plants and microbes — and develops new methods to analyze their carbon stable isotope ratios.

She then uses these signatures to better understand Earth’s ancient carbon cycle, climate, changing patterns of ecosystems, plant evolution and the elevation of ancient mountains. More recently, she began exploring astrobiology to investigate the signatures of life on Earth and, potentially, other planetary habitats.

Her teaching and research contributions have been recognized by numerous awards, including the Alfred Treibs Award from the Geochemical Society, the Cozzarelli Prize from the National Academy of Sciences and a Guggenheim fellowship. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

goldin nemmers prize
Claudia Goldin

Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University, is the first woman to win the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics. She was honored “for her groundbreaking insights into the history of the American economy, the evolution of gender roles and the interplay of technology, human capital and labor markets.” 

Goldin is the co-director of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s group on Gender in the Economy.

An economic historian and labor economist, Goldin is best known for her work on women in the U.S. economy. Her research spans a wide range of topics, including the female labor force, the gender gap in earnings, income inequality, technological change, education and migration.

She currently is writing a book about college women’s aspirations for having a career and family during the past century. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Goldin has received numerous awards, including the IZA Prize in Labor Economics and the Society of Labor Economists’ Mincer Prize for life-time contributions to labor economics.