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Three top scholars receive 2024 Nemmers Prize

Biennial award recognizes contributions to new knowledge

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University has announced the winners of the 2024 Nemmers Prizes in Earth sciences, economics and mathematics. The biennial prizes recognize top scholars for their lasting contributions to new knowledge, outstanding achievements and the development of significant new modes of analysis.

This year’s recipients are Barbara Sherwood Lollar for Earth sciences, Michael Woodford for economics and Luigi Ambrosio for mathematics. Each will receive $300,000 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 at 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 at Kellogg and the Nemmers Prizes, which carry some of the largest monetary stipends in each field.

This year’s Nemmers Prize recipients

Barbara Sherwood Lollar

Barbara Sherwood Lollar has received the Nemmers Prize in Earth sciences, honored for her “groundbreaking discoveries across several fields of Earth and environmental sciences, illuminating fundamental aspects of Earth’s life-sustaining water and carbon cycles.” She is the Dr. Norman Keevil Chair and University Professor of Ore Deposits Geology in the department of Earth sciences at the University of Toronto.

Sherwood Lollar’s award-winning research on the intersection between the carbon cycle and water cycle includes investigations of water-rock reactions producing methane, hydrogen and noble gases in the continental subsurface and of compound-specific stable isotopes of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and sulfur as an innovative means to monitor and improve remediation of groundwater contamination.

Her work has changed our understanding of the depth, volume and chemistry of the Earth’s subsurface hydrogeosphere. Her discoveries also have had an important impact on understanding the geochemical basis of Earth’s microbial biosphere, with implications for planetary science and solar system exploration.

She has published over 200 peer-reviewed papers in geochemistry, Earth and planetary sciences and supervised over 100 students, postdoctoral fellows and research associates around the world. She is co-director of Earth 4D: Subsurface Science and Exploration, an international and interdisciplinary research program funded by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

She is an international member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the American Geophysical Union and the Royal Society of London, among others. She is the recipient of the Clare Patterson Prize in Environmental Geochemistry from the Geochemical Society, the 2012 Eni Prize in Protection of the Environment and, most recently, selected as the 2023 American Geophysical Union Carl Sagan Lecturer.

The members of the 2024 Nemmers Prize Selection Committee were Yarrow Axford, Northwestern; Jeremy Bassis, University of Michigan; and Katherine Freeman, Penn State.

Michael Woodford

Michael Woodford has received the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics, honored for his achievements “advancing the New Keynesian approach to understanding economic fluctuations in general equilibrium, bridging the theory and the practice of monetary policy, and incorporating bounded rationality in macroeconomics.” He is the John Bates Clark Professor of Political Economy at Columbia University.

Woodford has worked extensively on macroeconomic modeling, focusing in particular on the role of expectations and alternative models of expectation formation in the propagation of economic disturbances, and in the effects of alternative monetary policies. His most important work is the treatise “Interest and Prices: Foundations of a Theory of Monetary Policy,” which shows how dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models can be used for monetary policy analysis and provides theoretical foundations for inflation targeting. He is also co-author or co-editor of several other volumes, including a three-volume “Handbook of Macroeconomics” (with John B. Taylor), a two-volume “Handbook of Monetary Economics” (with Benjamin M. Friedman), “The Inflation Targeting Debate” (with Ben S. Bernanke) and the textbook “International Macroeconomics” (with Stephanie Schmitt-Grohé and Martin Uribe). 

His current research focuses on implications of bounded rationality for economic analysis, drawing upon findings in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, with particular emphasis on the consequences of decisions based on imprecise mental representations. 

Woodford has been a MacArthur Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Econometric Society, the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory and the Society for Economic Measurement. He is a member of the research networks of the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Centre for Economic Policy Research and CESifo (Munich). He was the 2007 recipient of the Deutsche Bank Prize in Financial Economics and the 2018 recipient of the Banque de France/TSE Prize in Monetary Economics. At Columbia, Woodford is also a member of the steering committee of the Program on Cognitive Science and an affiliated faculty member of the Zuckerman Institute for Mind, Brain and Behavior.

The members of the 2024 Nemmers Prize Selection Committee were George Marios Angeletos, Northwestern; Guido Lorenzoni, University of Chicago; and Ricardo Reis, London School of Economics. 

Luigi Ambrosio

Luigi Ambrosio has received the Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics for his “deep and numerous contributions to calculus of variations and geometric measure theory, and broad and far-reaching influence on these fields.” He is a professor of Mathematical Analysis at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy.

Together with his Ph.D. advisor, Ennio De Giorgi, Ambrosio founded the theory of free discontinuity problems, a class of problems in the calculus of variations that involves the combination of volume and surface energies. In this class, it is possible to frame problems coming from image segmentation and fracture mechanics. In the second part of his career, Ambrosio moved to the theory of currents in geometric measure theory, introducing a far-reaching extension of the Federer-Fleming theory to metric spaces and to the theory of flows associated to non-smooth vector fields. His present research interests include optimal transport and analysis in metric measure spaces.

Ambrosio has been plenary speaker at the International Mathematical Union (ICM) 2018 and sectional speaker at ICM 2000. His scientific production includes more than 200 papers and many famous textbooks. In his career, he has received several prestigious awards, including the Caccioppoli Prize in 1999, the Fermat Prize in 2003, the Balzan Prize in 2019 and the Riemann Prize in 2022.

The members of the 2024 Nemmers Prize Selection Committee were Aaron Naber, Northwestern; Joseph Silverman, Brown University; and Martin Hairer, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne and Imperial College London.