Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

Illustration by Mariah Wilson

First all-female team awarded Nobel Chemistry prize

By Luis Armando Sanchez Diaz, November 2 2020—

Progress is constantly happening thanks to groundbreaking people that continue to make changes and advances in science.

Recently, the world received the news that for the first time in history, an all-female team was being awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences as the result of their study on the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors.

Recipients Emmanuelle Charpentier, Director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens and Jennifer A. Doudna, professor at the University of California Berkeley, began their collaboration in 2011. 

Since being discovered in 2012, their technology has now helped researchers to change the DNA of living beings such as plants, animals and microorganisms “with extremely high precision,” according to a press release. The statement also notes it could also assist in “curing inherited diseases” soon.

In the same statement, the current chair of the Nobel committee for chemistry, Claes Gustafsson, mentioned that this could lead to “ground-breaking new medical treatments.”

Doudna expressed that she was “really deeply asleep,” when a reporter broke the news of her big win at 3 a.m. in order to get her reaction. She thought it was a joke until she received a second call by one of her colleagues, reported TIME

“[The Nobel prize] makes a strong statement that women can do science, women can do chemistry and that great science is recognized and honored,” mentioned Doudna to a colleague when being filmed by Berkeley News.

On the other hand, Charpentier mentioned that she was “extremely emotional and extremely moved,” when she received the news.

She knew that she might be awarded the Nobel Prize one day but never thought she would receive it so soon as it had only been eight-years since she and Doudna published their discovery. 

“Nobel Prizes are awarded 20, 30 years after the discovery,” she said.

Charpentier continued by noting that “scientific work involves collaboration and is quite reflective of what is happening right now… science is more modern and involves more female leaders,” she emphasized.

The Nobel Prize statement ends by stressing that the discovery has “taken the life sciences into a new epoch and, in many ways, are bringing the greatest benefit to humankind.”

The price of 10 million Swedish kronor will be divided between the two recipients. 


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