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Northwestern University

Northwestern Unveils Nemmers Prize in Earth Sciences

The $200,000 prize will be awarded to an individual whose work demonstrates lasting significance.

By Daniel P. Smith

Thrilled, honored and humbled.

That accurately characterizes Brad Sageman’s emotions upon learning that the Nemmers Prize, a $200,000 award reserved for those who have made outstanding contributions to new knowledge in a given field, would be coming to the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Weinberg College.

“The Nemmers Prize in Earth Sciences will stimulate learning and scholarly exchange in areas of inquiry that represent the cutting edge of our discipline, while enhancing and enriching earth science at Northwestern,” says Sageman, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Bringing a leading scholar to campus

Made possible by a generous gift to Northwestern by the late Erwin Esser Nemmers and the late Frederic Esser Nemmers, the Earth Sciences award is the University’s fifth Nemmers Prize and joins others in economics, mathematics, music composition and medical science.

The University will begin accepting nominations for the newest Nemmers Prize in the spring quarter with the inaugural prize in Earth Sciences being awarded in 2018 and every other year thereafter. Candidates’ work must be of lasting significance to the field of Earth Sciences, including such elements as major contributions to new knowledge or the development of significant new modes of analysis.

Prizewinners are asked to be in residence at Northwestern for one quarter, or 10 weeks, and to present a public lecture. Honorees are also invited to interact with faculty and students, and numerous past Nemmers Prize winners have hosted symposia or graduate-level seminars in their designated department.

Driving earth science study at Northwestern

Sageman describes he and his department colleagues as “extremely appreciative” that the architects of the Nemmers Prize identified geology – a fundamentally interdisciplinary and integrative field that today encompasses the broader earth sciences  – as a discipline deserving of the prestigious recognition. 

The Nemmers Prize provides earth science faculty and students an opportunity to interact with scientists who have made transformative contributions to understanding the planet, which Sageman hopes fosters learning, sparks new connections and elevates the department’s standing.

“Bringing a highly distinguished scholar to Northwestern for a quarter allows us to focus on each awardee’s area of research and learn from them,” Sageman says. “It allows us to use their visit as a center of gravity to bring other prominent scholars to Northwestern for fruitful discussions, networking and perhaps the initiation of collaborations.”

To learn more about the Nemmers Prizes and the nomination procedures, please visit

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