The first week in October is on us again, and this Wednesday is the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. So what can we say about who should get it (and about who actually will?)
Your first place to turn should be Paul Bracher's ChemBark post on the topic. He has a comprehensive list of candidates, but the only ones with better odds than the field bet are:
Spectroscopy & Application of Lasers (Zare/Moerner/+), 6-1
Nuclear Hormone Signaling (Chambon/Evans/Jensen), 7-1
Bioinorganic Chemistry (Gray/Lippard/Holm/–), 8-1
Techniques in DNA Synthesis, (Caruthers/Hood/+), 10-1
That's a very reasonable list, and I think that Zare/Moerner (and possibly et al.) are definitely going to win at some point. There's a strong case to be made for each of the others, too. Meanwhile, Thomson/Reuters has narrowed things down quite a bit. Their three contenders are:
Electrochemistry (Bard et al.)
Molecular Dynamics (Karplus et al.)
Dendritic Polymers (Fréchet, Tomalia, Vögtle)
Those first two have been contenders for many years (which tends to move them down on the ChemBark list, and up on the Thomson one), but no one could complain about either of them. I really, really doubt that dendritic chemistry's going to win this year, though, and I'd like to know what put that topic so far up the list. Maybe some day, but not yet, in my opinion. My guess is that the sheer number of publications in the field has skewed things a bit (after all, keeping track of such things is Thomson/Reuters' business). Wavefunction's list is a good one to check out, and seems much more in tune with reality.
There are some categories of research that I would like to see win at some point, although narrowing down the names won't be easy. I think that directed-evolution methods are a great area with a lot of potential, for one, and the whole activity-based protein profiling/in vivo cell labeling stuff is another. Eventually I expect some nanotech/molecular machine discovery to win, but only once it gets far enough along to connect with the real world. And the work on photochemical energy technology (carbon dioxide fixation, hydrogen generation, and so on) will also be a strong candidate when something looks world-changing enough. Other discoveries in the surely-Nobel-worthy category are GPCR structure (and that sort of thing has usually been moved over into the Chemistry prize) and DNA-based diagnostic methods (hard to narrow that one down, though).
This year? I think the committee will go back and pick up one of those prizes for long-time contenders; I don't expect any massive surprises. And I certainly don't expect anything in organic chemistry this time. But we'll see on Wednesday. What's that? You want me to really pick something? Fine. . .I'll guess the nuclear receptor people, or the single-molecule spectroscopy people, in basically a dead heat. I think that the ChemBark odds are correct.