Three NIU professors worked closely Nobel Prize winners


The Nobel Prize in chemistry for 2008 was awarded to Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Y. Tsien on Oct. 6th.

And while the NIU department of chemistry and biochemistry doesn’t have any Nobel laureates as of now, three professors have worked closely with laureates.

Professors Narayan Hosmane, Chong Zheng and Douglas Klumpp can all share their experiences working with a laureate.

Hosmane’s similar interest of boron chemistry linked him to William Linscomb, who won the Nobel Prize in 1976 for the same subject. The two collaborated on many research papers and became close friends as a result.

“I never called him William,” Hosmane said. “I referred to him as ‘The Colonel’ because he was from Kentucky. We still talk often.”

Professor Zheng got his Ph.D. at Cornell with Roald Hoffmann as his adviser. Hoffmann won the Nobel Prize in 1981 because of his theory on molecules.

“I worked under Hoffmann from 1980 to 1985, and when he won the Nobel Prize in 1981, he told me that I brought him luck,” Zheng said. “There were so many reporters and TV cameras at the building where we all were,” Zheng said. “We knew he would win at some point, but it was still very exciting.”

Professor Klumpp also worked with a Nobel Prize winner. Klumpp completed his post-doctoral study at University of Southern California (USC) under George Olah, whose work in organic chemistry won him the Nobel Prize.

“There would be more pollution and gas would probably be $2 more expensive without his work,” Klumpp said.

Klumpp said that the day Olah won the Nobel Prize was one of the greatest experiences in his life.

“I walked into the office in October of 1994 and someone said ‘Hey, your boss won the Nobel Prize,'” Klump said. “I remember I had to go out and buy 30 bottles of champagne. I compare it to being on a team that just won the Super Bowl. It was really something.”