An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Two members of the MIT community won 2021 Nobel Prizes in different categories: alumnus David Julius ’77, who shares the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and Joshua Angrist, who shares the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Julius, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco, is at least the 38th Nobel laureate to hold a degree from MIT (see the full list at the end of this story), sharing the prize with Ardem Patapoutian, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute, for their discoveries in how the body senses touch and temperature. The pair “utilized capsaicin, a pungent compound from chili peppers that induces a burning sensation, to identify a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to heat,” the Nobel committee said in a news release. “The laureates identified critical missing links in our understanding of the complex interplay between our senses and the environment.”

Julius majored in biology at MIT as an undergraduate before earning a PhD in 1984 from University of California at Berkeley and was a postdoc at Columbia University. Read more on MIT News.

Angrist, an MIT labor economist, is recognized for his influential work enhancing rigorous empirical research and establishing new methods of conducting “natural experiments” in economics. He shares the prize with David Card of the University of California at Berkeley and Guido Imbens of Stanford Graduate School of Business. “Their research has substantially improved our ability to answer key causal questions, which has been of great benefit to society,” the Nobel committee said in a news release. Read more on MIT News.

Julius and Angrist bring the total MIT-connected Nobel winners to 98. Visit MIT’s Institutional Research Page for more details, and see the MIT Alumni laureates below.  

 Alumni Who Have Won the Nobel Prize

ALUMNUS/ALUMNA

YEAR

CATEGORY

David Julius '77 2021 Physiology or Medicine 
Andrea Ghez '87 2020 Physics
Esther Duflo PhD '71 2019 Economic Sciences 
William D. Nordhaus PhD '71 2018 Economic Sciences 
Michael Rosbash PhD '71 2017 Physiology or Medicine 
Rainer Weiss '55 PhD '62 2017 Physics
Paul Modrich ’68 2015 Chemistry
Jean Tirole PhD ’81 2014 Economic Sciences
Robert Shiller SM ’68 PhD ’72 2013 Economic Sciences
Adam G. Riess ’92 2011 Physics
Oliver E. Williamson ’55 2009 Economic Sciences
Paul Krugman PhD ’77 2008 Economic Sciences
Wei M. Hao SM ’12 2007 Peace
Andrew Fire PhD ’83 2006 Physiology or Medicine 
George Smoot ’66 PhD ’71 2006 Physics
Robert Aumann SM ’52 2005 Economic Sciences
Robert Horvitz ’68 2002 Physiology or Medicine 
George Akerlof PhD ’66 2001 Economic Sciences
Kofi Annan SM ’72 2001 Peace
Eric Cornell PhD ’90 2001 Physics
Leland Hartwell PhD ’64 2001 Physiology or Medicine 
Joseph Stiglitz PhD ’66 2001 Economic Sciences
Carl Wieman ’73 2001 Physics
Robert Mundell PhD ’56 1999 Economic Sciences
Robert Laughlin PhD ’79 1998 Physics
Robert Merton PhD ’70 1997 Economic Sciences
William Phillips ’76 1997 Physics
Elias Corey, Jr. ’48 PhD ’51 1990 Chemistry
Henry Kendall PhD ’55 1990 Physics
Sidney Altman ’60 1989 Chemistry
Charles J. Pedersen SM ’27 1987 Chemistry
Lawrence Klein PhD ’44 1980 Economic Sciences
Burton Richter ’52 PhD ’56 1976 Physics
John Schrieffer ’53 1972 Physics
Murray Gell-Man PhD ’51 1969 Physics
Robert Mulliken ’17 1966 Chemistry
Richard Feynman ’39 1965 Physics
Robert Burns Woodward ’36 PhD ’37 1965 Chemistry
William Shockley PhD ’36 1956 Physics

Top photo (left to right): David Julius ’77 (Photo credit: Steve Babuljak, UCSF) and Joshua Angrist (Photo credit: Lillie Paquette).