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Paul Romer the latest of CIFAR’s Nobel connections

by Jon Farrow Nov 1 / 18
© ® The Nobel Foundation

The announcement that Paul Romer would share the 2018 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (more commonly known as the Nobel Prize in Economics) with William D. Nordhaus was notable for the field of economics, and also for CIFAR.

Romer becomes the 19th researcher associated with CIFAR who has been awarded a Nobel Prize during its 38-year history, including five Laureates still active with CIFAR.

“The number of Nobel Laureates associated with CIFAR is just another example of how our powerful method for addressing important research questions attracts the very best minds from around the world,” said Alan Bernstein, CIFAR President & CEO.

© Peter Badge/Typps1 – all rights reserved 2018

Romer is a professor at the New York University Stern School of Business and was a Senior Fellow with CIFAR’s former Economic Growth and Policy program, which gave rise to the current Institutions, Organizations & Growth program. He was awarded the Nobel for his work on endogenous growth theory, which demonstrates how knowledge can function as a driver of long-term economic growth. For more on his work and his connection to CIFAR, read our story here.

The following is a complete list of CIFAR Nobel Prize winners.


Walter Gilbert (1980)
“for [his] contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids”

Walter was on the Advisory Committee of the Evolutionary Biology program for 17 years, from 1990 to 2007. The work that won the Nobel Prize established fundamental methods for understanding how DNA is transcribed in bacteria.

John Polanyi (1986)
“for [his] contributions concerning the dynamics of chemical elementary processes”

John was a Senior Fellow of the Nanoelectronics program, from 2005 to 2013. He developed a method for studying the details of how energy is deposited in chemical reactions using infrared chemiluminescence.

Sidney Altman (1989)
“for [his] discovery of catalytic properties of RNA”

Sidney was an Associate Fellow of the Evolutionary Biology program from 1998 to 2002. He discovered that RNA is not only an information-carrying molecule, but can also catalyze reactions with itself.

Michael Smith (1993)
“for his fundamental contributions to the establishment of oligonucleotide-based, site-directed mutagenesis and its development for protein studies.”

Michael was a member of the Advisory Committee of the Evolutionary Biology program from 1987 to 2000. He developed a method for reprogramming the genetic code in order to investigate new proteins.

Brian Koblinka (2012)
“for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors”

Brian has been a member of the Advisory Committee for the Molecular Architecture of Life program since 2015. He contributed to the understanding of how cells sense their environment and was the first to image a protein receptor being activated.


Kenneth Arrow (1972)
“for [his] pioneering contributions to general economic equilibrium theory and welfare theory.”

Kenneth was the chair of the Economic Growth & Policy program Advisory Committee from 1992 to 2002. Among other advances, he applied new mathematical techniques to the study of equilibrium systems.

George Akerlof (2001)
“for their analyses of markets with asymmetric information”

George was a Senior Fellow and Program Co-Director of the Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being program. He has also has been a Senior Fellow of the Institutions, Organizations & Growth (IOG) program since 2010, was an Associate Fellow of IOG from 2004-2010 and an Associate Fellow of its predecessors  Economic Growth & Institutions (2003-2004) and Economic Growth & Policy (1992-2002). Akerlof elucidated the negative effects of an imbalance in information between buyers and sellers.

Daniel Kahneman (2002)
“for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty”

Daniel was an associate fellow of the Artificial Intelligence, Robotics & Society program (1984-196) and was a member of the Advisory Committee for the Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being program from 2005 to 2011. He showed that humans do not always act in rational self-interest by integrating findings from cognitive psychology.

Roger Myerson (2007)
“for having laid the foundations of mechanism design theory”

Roger has been a member of the Advisory Committee for the Institutions, Organizations & Growth program since 2004. He was also a member of the Advisory Committee for its predecessor, Economic Growth & Institutions, from 2003 to 2004. He developed the mathematical underpinnings for a field of economics concerned with designing the rules and institutions for trade.

Paul Romer (2018)
“for integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis”

Paul was a Senior Fellow in the Economic Growth & Institutions program from 1991 to 1999. He developed a model for understanding how economic forces promote, obstruct and shape the creation of ideas and knowledge.


Philip Anderson (1977)
“for [his] fundamental theoretical investigations of the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems.”

Philip was an Associate Fellow of the Quantum Materials program from 2000 to 2013. He developed the theoretical basis for understanding how electrons move through disordered (non-crystalline) materials.

Robert Laughlin (1998)
“for [his] discovery of a new form of quantum fluid with fractionally charged excitations.”

Robert was an Associate Fellow of the Quantum Materials program from 2000 to 2008. He provided a theoretical explanation for the observations that electrons at low temperatures in strong magnetic fields form a kind of quantum fluid.

Anthony Leggett (2003)
“for pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids”

Anthony was the chair of the Quantum Information Science program Advisory Committee from 2002 to 2007 and a member of the same committee from 2007 to 2014. He developed a theoretical explanation of how the atoms of low-temperature superfluids like Helium-3 are arranged and interact.

Willard Boyle (2009)
“for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit - the CCD sensor”

Willard was a member of the CIFAR Research Council in 1987 and led the task force in 1986 that proposed a program of research into superconductors and materials science more broadly. This led to the establishment of the Quantum Materials program. He invented the Charged-Coupled Device (CCD) with George E. Smith, the sensor in all modern digital cameras.

David Wineland (2012)
“for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems”

David was a member of the Advisory Committee for the Quantum Information Science program from 2004 to 2006. He invented a way to trap, control and count ions without destroying their quantum properties.

Arthur McDonald (2015)
“for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass”

Arthur has been an Associate Fellow of the Gravity & the Extreme Universe program since 2017. He was also an Associate Fellow of its predecessor, Cosmology & Gravity, from 2007 to 2017. Previous to program fellowship, he was a Research Council Member from 1997 to 2005, an Advisory Committee Chair from 2000 to 2005, and an Advisory Committee member from 2005 to 2007. He discovered that neutrinos, some of the most abundant particles in the universe, have mass.

Physiology and Medicine

Richard Roberts (1993)
“for [his] discovery of split genes”

Richard was a member of the Advisory Committee for the Evolutionary Biology Program from 2002 to 2005. He discovered that genes are often composed of segments of DNA separated by long strands of irrelevant material that get spliced out in the transcription process.

Eric Wieschaus (1995) - Active HMB Advisory Council
“for [his] discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development”

Eric has been a member of the Advisory Committee for the Humans & the Microbiome Program since 2014. He identified and classified genes in fruit flies that are key to development in human embryos as well.

Leland Hartwell (2001)
“for [his] discoveries of key regulators of the cell cycle”

Leland Hartwell was a member of the Advisory Committee for the Genetic Networks program from 2006 to 2007. He discovered a class of genes that control many parts of the cell cycle, including the CDC28 “start” gene which begins the cell cycle.

Of the 19 laureates:

  • 7 got involved with CIFAR before they won their prize (Michael Smith, Anthony Leggett, Willard Boyle, George Akerlof, Daniel Kahneman, David Wineland and Arthur McDonald)
  • 5 are currently active participants in CIFAR programs (George Akerlof and Arthur McDonald are Fellows; Brian Koblika, Roger Myerson and Eric Wieschaus are Advisory Council Members)