Longhorn Laureates

What Starts Here Wins Nobel Prizes

Nobel Prize

A UT alumnus won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine last week.

Michael W. Young, B.A. ’71, Ph.D. ’75, won for the discovery of the gene that controls our biological clocks, which regulate processes like sleep and metabolism throughout the day.

He’s not the first Longhorn laureate, of course. 

Here are six UT alumni and professors awarded Nobel Prizes. Their pioneering work proves that what starts here changes the world. 

Hermann Joseph Muller - Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine - 1946

Hermann J. Muller

Hermann Joseph Muller, a UT professor from 1920 to 1932, won the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He was the first to show that radiation from X-rays could cause gene mutations and played a key role in early efforts to promote public awareness of the dangers of radiation.

Ilya Prigogine - Nobel Prize in Chemistry - 1977

Ilya Prigogine

Ilya Prigogine, a former UT professor, won the 1977 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He showed how complex structures, such as life on Earth, could arise despite a law of physics that says all physical systems tend to become less organized over time. His research could also help explain the growth of cities and the dynamics of traffic jams.

Steven Weinberg - Nobel Prize in Physics - 1979

Stephen Weinberg

UT professor Steven Weinberg won the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics. He proposed a theory unifying two fundamental forces of nature that led to the development of what is known as the Standard Model of particle physics – the model that predicted the existence of the Higgs boson “God particle.” Weinberg is considered by many to be the preeminent living theoretical physicist.

E. Donnall Thomas - Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine - 1990

E. Donnall Thomas

UT alumnus E. Donnall Thomas, B.A. ‘41, M.A. ’43, won the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Known as the father of bone marrow transplantation, he showed bone marrow could be successfully transplanted to treat illnesses such as leukemia, a discovery that paved the way for the use of organ and cell transplants as a way to treat diseases. 

John Maxwell “J.M.” Coetzee - Nobel Prize in Literature - 2003

J.M. Coetzee

UT alumnus John Maxwell “J.M.” Coetzee, Ph.D. ’69, won the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature. One of the most award-winning English-language authors alive, he was the first to win the prestigious Booker prize twice for "The Life & Times of Michael K" in 1983 and "Disgrace" in 1989. The Swedish Academy praised the universal and humanistic character of his literary work.

Michael W. Young - Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine - 2017

Michael W. Young

Photo courtesy of Rockefeller University

UT alumnus Michael W. Young won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He shared the award with Jeffrey Hall and Michael Rosbash for research that led to the understanding of how plants, animals and humans synchronize their biological clocks with the Earth’s rotation. The three researchers analyzed genes of fruit flies and discovered that genes accumulated a specific protein at night that gradually degraded during daylight hours. Read more here