The 2015 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates

by Christopher King

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Beginning on October 5th, in the annual tradition, the world’s attention will once again focus on Sweden for the announcement of the Nobel Prizes. A small group of researchers will have their lives forever changed, earning a distinction that guarantees a virtual immortality as a Nobel Laureate.

In scholarly circles and even in the media, speculation about the prize runs high, as observers try to anticipate which researchers and advancements might merit a summons to Stockholm.

Since 2002, the Intellectual Property & Science business of Thomson Reuters has brought a new dimension to identifying researchers who might be in line for science’s highest award. Each year, the company announces a new batch of Citation Laureates—researchers whose work has achieved quantifiable esteem and impact in the scientific community, at a level far beyond the norm. This attainment, demonstrated in the elevated quantity of highly cited papers written by these select researchers, signals that they are “of Nobel class” and likely to earn the Nobel someday.

The Road to Stockholm

The path to becoming a Citation Laureate, and in fact to Stockholm, is varied. John A. List, a Thomson Reuters 2015 Citation Laureate in Economics, shared that his economics work began with a focus on field experiments that explore economic questions such as: Why do people discriminate? Why do men earn more than women in labor markets? Why do people give to charitable causes? How can we induce people to conserve energy in their home?

“I had always been a sports card enthusiast and frequented naturally occurring markets where buyers and sellers would trade memorabilia. My work in field experiments began when I started to combine the two in the early 1990s,” said List, of the University of Chicago. “My simple goal was to learn how well our theoretical models explained the world. When they did not match I attempted to learn why, and strived to put forth ideas for better models. I gradually evolved into combining elements of policy and behavioral economics into my research. In this way, I have been able to test new behavioral theories in naturally-occurring markets.”

Similarly, the road to Stockholm is packed with countless competent and qualified individuals, many of whom are advancing breakthrough technologies that will change the lives of future generations. Such is the case with Zhong Lin Wang, a 2015 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureate in Physics. “My goal is to develop fundamental new science and key technologies that will promote the progress of our society and improve the quality of people’s life. I have been focused on new energy research, which is a core area for many decades to come,” said Wang.

He went on to explain how he has been involved in nanoscience research for more than three decades, since he was a graduate student. “Over the years, I have been focused on structure analysis of nanomaterials. . . we published the first paper on ZnO nanobelts in 2001, which started a new area in nanoscience of oxide materials. It is also the beginning of my major invention of nanogenerators and piezotronics.”

Perseverance and dedication are two common traits of most Citation Laureates. Some remain focused on an area for many years, while others are part of the launch of a new, rapidly rising field. All have a passion for what they do. As Wang explained, “my love of science and a positive personality have been the major drivers for me making continuous important advances.”

"My goal is to develop fundamental new science and key technologies that will promote the progress of our society and improve the quality of people’s life. . . . my love of science and a positive personality have been the major drivers for me making continuous important advances."

Zhong Lin Wang, a 2015 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureate in Physics and Regent’s Professor, Hightower Chair in Materials Science and Engineering, School of Materials Science and Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Announcing the 2015 Citation Laureates

As is customary, three selections have been made in each of the following Nobel categories: Physiology or Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Economics. Thomson Reuters has now released its list of 2015 Citation Laureates.


Jeffrey I. Gordon Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and Director of the Center of Genome Sciences and Systems Biology, School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, USA For demonstrating the relationship between the human gut microbiome and physiology, metabolism, and nutrition
Kazutoshi Mori Professor, Department of Biophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto, JAPAN
Peter Walter Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA
For independently identifying the mechanism by which unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum are detected and corrected
Alexander Y. Rudensky Chairman, Immunology Program; Director, Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy; Tri-Institutional Professor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University and Cornell University; Professor, Gerstner Sloan-Kettering Graduate School; Professor, Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, New York, NY, USA
Shimon Sakaguchi, M.D., Ph.D. Distinguished Professor, World Premier International Research Center, Immunology Frontier Research Center, Osaka University, Osaka, JAPAN
Ethan M. Shevach Chief, Cellular Immunology Section, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, MD USA
For their seminal discoveries concerning the nature and function of regulatory T cells and the transcription factor Foxp3

TABLE 1: 2015 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates in Physiology or Medicine

Paul B. Corkum National Research Council-Canada Research Chair in Attosecond Photonics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, CANADA
Ferenc Krausz Director at Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, and Chair of Experimental Physics, Faculty of Physics, at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Garching, GERMANY and Munich, GERMANY
For contributions to the development of attosecond physics
Deborah S. Jin Fellow, JILA, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Adjoint Professor of Physics, University of Colorado Boulder Boulder, CO, USA For pioneering research on atomic gases at ultra-cold temperatures and the creation of the first fermionic condensate
Zhong Lin Wang Regent’s Professor, Hightower Chair in Materials Science and Engineering, School of Materials Science and Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA, USA For his invention of piezotronic and piezophototronic nanogenerators

TABLE 2: 2015 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates in Physics

Carolyn R. Bertozzi Ann T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Chemical & Systems Biology and Radiology at Stanford University and Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford, CA, USA For foundational contributions to bioorthogonal chemistry
Emmanuelle Charpentier Associate Professor, Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS, Swedish Node of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory [EMBL] Partnership for Molecular Medicine), Umeå University, Umeå, SWEDEN; Professor, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, GERMANY; and, Head, Department Regulation in Infection Biology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, GERMANY
Jennifer A. Doudna Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology and of Chemistry, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA
For the development of the CRISPR-cas9 method for genome editing
John B. Goodenough Virginia H. Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering, University of Texas Austin Austin, TX, USA
M. Stanley Whittingham SUNY Distinguished Professor, Binghamton University (SUNY), Binghamton, NY and Research Professor and Director DOE NECCES EFRC, SUNY Stony Brook Stony Brook, NY, USA
For pioneering research leading to the development of the lithium-ion battery

TABLE 3: 2015 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates in Chemistry

Sir Richard Blundell, CBE FBA Ricardo Professor of Political Philosophy, Department of Economics, University College London and Research Director at Institute for Fiscal Studies, London, UK For microeconometric research on labor markets and consumer behavior
John A. List Homer J. Livingston Professor of Economics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA For advancing field experiments in economics
Charles F. Manski Board of Trustees Professor in Economics, Northwestern University Evanston, IL, USA For his description of partial identification and economic analysis of social interactions

TABLE 4: 2015 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates in Economic Sciences

Tell us who you think will win a Nobel Prize

You can cast your vote for the Citation Laureates you think are most likely to win a 2015 Nobel Prize. Click here to participate in our poll – please cast your votes before October 5.



To identify these exceptional researchers, analysts turn to the Web of Science and its store of publication and citation data. Ascertaining concentrations of highly cited work and the authors behind it provides a trail that ultimately leads to the new batch of Citation Laureates.

For an expanded discussion of the methodology, please click here.

Although this selection constitutes a kind of prediction, it does not purport to foresee who will win this year’s prizes. To actually predict the specific Nobel winners in a given year is a very tall order. Unlike, say, the Academy Awards, which honor achievement over the finite period of the previous year, the Nobels can reflect a lifetime of work, and the award may be conferred decades after the pertinent research was performed.

Each annual class of Citation Laureates is added to an elite roster—those researchers likely to receive a Nobel Prize at some point in the future. Exactly when, of course, is in the hands of the Nobel committees.
View the Thomson Reuters Hall of Laureates

Research of Nobel Class

This year’s Citation Laureates embrace the customary variety of topics and achievement. In Chemistry, for example, the CRISPR/cas-9 method for genome editing, a kind of “find-and-replace” utility for altering stretches of genetic material, has occasioned a wave of research, along with qualms about how the tool might ultimately be used. In Physics, key research elucidated the molecular workings that take place in an attosecond—one quintillionth of a second. In Physiology or Medicine, one of the new Citation Laureates broke ground in characterizing the relationship between humans and the trillions of microbiota that inhabit their intestines, and how imbalances in that symbiosis are now suspected of playing a role in mood and other unexpected aspects of personality. In Economics, a researcher has brought new insights into how policy decisions affect labor markets and other phenomenon, with attention on how families are affected by adverse economic conditions—a distressingly perennial topic.

We congratulate the new class of Citation Laureates and recognize the impact of their contributions. The only remaining question is, how long will it be before they receive a call from Sweden?