While Berkeley celebrated the exciting news that one of its faculty members – George F. Smoot – won a Nobel Prize in Physics last fall, the campus community paid slightly less attention to two equally deserving Nobels awarded at the same time to two of its alumni: John Mather, who shared the honors with Smoot for the Physics prize, and Andrew Fire, who was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Medicine.
Mather and Fire’s awards bring the total number of Nobel Prizes won by Cal alumni to 24.
John C. Mather of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center earned his Ph.D. in physics from U.C. Berkeley in 1974. In 2006 he shared the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics with Cal’s George F. Smoot for their collaborative work on understanding the Big Bang. Mather and Smoot analyzed data from NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), which studied the pattern of radiation from the first few instants after the universe was formed.
Mather is a senior astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at Goddard. His research centers on infrared astronomy and cosmology. He’s the senior project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope
Andrew Z. Fire is a Stanford University geneticist who shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. An alumnus of UC Berkeley's mathematics department, he whizzed through Cal in three years before moving on to graduate school at the age of 19.
Fire grew up in Sunnyvale, entered UC Berkeley at the age of 16, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1978 with "highest honors in mathematics and distinction in general scholarship."