In 2023, immigrants have kept doing what they have done for years—winning Nobel Prizes. This year, four of the six U.S. recipients of Nobel Prizes in medicine, chemistry, and physics came to America as immigrants. Immigrants have contributed substantially to the United States in scientific fields, especially in the last two decades. According to an analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), “immigrants have been awarded 40%, or 45 of 112, of the Nobel Prizes won by Americans in chemistry, medicine, and physics since 2000.” Between 1901 and 2023, immigrants have been “awarded 36%, or 115 of 319, of the Nobel Prizes won by Americans in chemistry, medicine, and physics.”
Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman shared the Nobel Prize in medicine for their “discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.” Kariko earned a Ph.D. in Hungary but did not want to raise a family and continue working under a communist rule. She came to the United States and started working as a postdoctoral researcher. Despite receiving several rejections to her applications for government grants and corporate funding, Dr. Kariko did not give up on her attempts to harness the power of mRNA to fight disease. At the University of Pennsylvania, Kariko collaborated with Drew Weissman and solved the problem plaguing mRNA by stopping the body from fighting the new chemical after an injection, and rewarded with the Nobel Prize in medicine.
Two immigrants—France-born Moungi G. Bawendi and former USSR-born Alexei I. Ekimov—shared with the U.S.-born Lous E. Brus the 2023 Nobel Prize in chemistry. The Prize rewards “the discovery and development of quantum dots, nanoparticles so tiny that their size determines their properties. These smallest components of nanotechnology now spread their light from televisions and LED lamps and can also guide surgeons when they remove tumor tissue, among many other things.” Bawendi is an MIT professor and immigrated to America when he was a child. Ekimov works at Nanocrystals Technology Inc. in New York and came to the United States in 1999.
Pierre Agostini shared the Nobel Prize in physics with two French scientists, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier, for “creating ultra-short pulses of light that can give a snapshot of changes within atoms, potentially leading to better detection of disease.” Now a professor emeritus of physics in Ohio State University, Agostini immigrated to America from France.