UPDATE (Oct. 3, 8:30 a.m.): Yoshinori Ohsumi has won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Ohsumi is a 71-year-old Japanese scientist who received the honor for his work with autophagy. He did much of his research at the University of Tokyo and is now a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
The Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine will probably be announced in the wee hours of Monday morning. We don’t know who will win, but we can tell you about who has won it in the past. The typical winner is a man, born in the United States, who does his research at Harvard University. He is, on average, 58 years old when he wins.1
Unless you are unaware of the vast imbalance in monetary resources that has historically favored both research in the U.S. as a whole and at Harvard specifically, this is probably not a terribly shocking set of facts. But the world of physiology/medicine Nobel laureates gets a lot more interesting when you compare the male winners with the female ones.
First, there are far fewer female winners, only 12 out of 210 in the history of the award, which has been given out since 1901. As with the males, they tend to be from the U.S. But they are a little older — about 63, on average, compared with 58 for men.2 And not a single one listed Harvard as her primary research institution. That’s surprising, given that there were as many male winners from Harvard as there were total female winners. In fact, of the eight institutions that have won this award five times or more, only two had a female winner. These powerhouse research centers seem to only be powerhouses for one sex when it comes to this prize. So where should you work if you’re a woman who wants to win a Nobel in physiology or medicine? Your best bet might be to set up your lab at an institution that’s never won before. While Harvard won the most awards of any single institution, it’s most common for winners to hail from institutions that have no other wins to their name. Ninety winners fit this profile, including three female winners. No other institution had more than one female winner.
|INSTITUTION||NUMBER OF WINNERS||FEMALE WINNERS|
|Harvard (University and Medical School combined)||12||0|
|University College London||5||0|
|Max Planck Institutes||5||1|