Amid debate, all 2016 American Nobel laureates are immigrants

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In a year in which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is proposing a crackdown on immigration, all six of the 2016 American Nobel laureates announced to date are immigrants.

{mosads}”I think the resounding message that should go out all around the world is that science is global,” Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, one of three laureates in chemistry, told The Hill on Monday. 

Stoddart, born in Scotland, credited American openness with bringing top scientists to the country. He added, however, that the American scientific establishment will only remain strong “as long as we don’t enter an era where we turn our back on immigration.”

Stoddart said the United States should be “welcoming people from all over the world, including the Middle East.”

Stoddart naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2011, but said he would likely not vote on Nov. 8.

“I find it very difficult to handle the situation and certainly don’t have much time to think about it between now and December when I go to Stockholm,” said Stoddart, a researcher at Northwestern University, who won the prize in chemistry in collaboration with Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Bernard Feringa, French and Dutch researchers. They won their prize for “for the design and synthesis of molecular machines.”

Trump has focused his campaign on immigration and the revocation of free trade deals, targeting globalization as a movement that “has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.” The billionaire has proposed strengthening immigration laws and “extreme vetting” of potential immigrants from countries with a history of terrorism.

“It’s particularly pertinent to have these discussions in view of the political climate on both sides of the pond at the moment,” said Stoddart. “I think the United States is what it is today largely because of open borders.”

Stoddart added that political leaders today are not “people of the times.”

“I’m kind of exasperated with the level of politics in this country and my old country,” he said. “I would be excited about voting if I was in Germany. Chancellor Merkel is a qualified chemist.”  

Duncan Haldane, the English Princeton University researcher who won the prize for physics, described the immigration process as a “bureaucratic nightmare for many people” in an interview with The Hill. 

The prize in physics was awarded to three British immigrants, Haldane, David Thouless of Yale University and Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University.

Despite procedural challenges, the scientists believe the American educational system will continue attracting researchers from all over the world.

“I think the higher education system in the US is second to none. As far as science is concerned, as close to perfect as one could hope it to be,” said Stoddart.

Haldane said top scientists come to the United States because of its research-friendly funding system.

“There’s a tradition of funding very fundamental research without regard for it being ‘useful,’” said Haldane.    

The Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Oliver Hart of Harvard University and Bengt Holmström of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, British and Finnish immigrants, respectively.

The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi for his research on cell replication, and the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his efforts to end the country’s 52-year civil war.

The 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced on Thursday.

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