Susan Coopersmith on Selecting Kavli Prize Laureates

The selection of a Kavli Prize Laureate starts with a review of nominations received from around the world. Nominations are open to all scientists conducting basic research in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience – the big, the small and the complex. 

Three separate prize committees, one in each of the scientific areas, work independently of each other to review and discuss the nominations and each committee puts forward a unanimous recommendation for the laureates in each field to The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. The prize committees consist of five members each of whom are nominated by The Chinese Academy of Sciences, The French Academy of Sciences, The Max Planck Society of Germany, The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, The UK’s Royal Society and The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. 

the logo for Alan Alda's clear and vivid podcast Dr. Susan Coppersmith, member of the 2020 Kavli Prize Committee in Nanoscience, speaks with Clear + Vivid podcast host Alan Alda to discuss selecting this year’s nanoscience laureates (a first time that there were four!). They also talk about the breakthrough science of each laureate, what is nanotechnology (and how small is small), and the difficulties and interesting aspects of selecting laureates from a large pool of exceptional scientists globally. Dr. Coopersmith shares that committee members are international, coming from all over the world to discuss the nominations with each other, and that evaluation is done very carefully, with a lot of reading and talking to people in the global scientific community. She remarks that a decision to put forward laureates to The Norwegian Academy of Sciences “has to be unanimous” and that “at the end of the day, our best judgment is that this is the right thing to do.” Susan Coppersmith was one of three women on the Kavli Prize Committee in Nanoscience and includes:


  • Bodil Holst (Chair), University of Bergen, Norway
  • Gabriel Aeppli, Paul Scherrer Institut, Switzerland
  • Susan Coppersmith, University of New South Wales, Australia
  • Shuit-Tong Lee, Soochow University, China
  • Joachim Spatz, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Germany