As we approach October, Nobel Speculation Season is upon us again. And Ash is right at Curious Wavefunction - making the predictions gets easier every year, because you get to keep the lists you had from before, with maybe a name or two removed because they actually won. Paul at Chembark usually does a long post on the subject this time of year, but he seems to have his hands full (understandably!) getting his academic lab set up and teaching his courses the first time through.
The Thomson Reuters people have made their annual predictions, based on citation counts and such measures, and so far every other article I've seen in the press is based on their lists. Some years I speculate myself, so for what they're worth, here's my 2011 list, here's 2010, here's 2009, 2008, and 2006.
What's the landscape like this year? Thomson/Reuters have made a bold case for Sharpless/Folkin/Finn for the Huisgen-style "click" chemistry. I know that the thought has crossed my mind before (and shown up in the comments here before as well, several times). A second Nobel for Sharpless would be quite a feat, and it really says something that people consider it a possibility. John Bardeen got Physics twice, and Sanger got Chemistry twice. Marie Curie's the only person to win in two different sciences. (And yes, there's Pauling, the only winner of two unshared prizes, but one of them was Peace, which has too often been a real eye-roller of an award). R. B. Woodward, had he lived, would certainly have won Chemistry twice, since there was an award for the Woodward-Hoffman rules after his death.
Thomson/Reuters also proposes Alvisatros/Mirkin/Seeman for a DNA nanotechnology prize in chemistry, and Bruce Ames for the Ames mutagenicity test. (Man, it feels strange to link to something that I blogged about eleven years ago!) Of those two, I think Ames is a better bet, since he really did change the field of toxicology forever. It would make more sense for a physiology/medicine prize, but we all know how things go. On the other hand, I think that the DNA nanoparticle work will be given a chance to have a greater real-world impact before it gets a prize.
I like the Wavefunction picks a lot, too. He's looking at single-molecule spectroscopy for a physical/analytical chemistry prize, and he points out that surface plasmon resonance and solid-state NMR (among other NMR methods) haven't won, either. Considering the 2002 prize to Fenn for electrospray MS, these are very plausible, although I have to say that LC/MS (considering the way it's taken over the analytical world in the last 20 years) made that one a clear choice. His other top picks are nuclear receptors, electron transfer in biological systems, chaperone proteins, cancer genetics, and some sort of chemical biology prize. I wouldn't be a bit surprised at any of those - like the palladium-coupling prize, the biggest problem will be figuring out who to award some of these to, not determining whether they're worthy of winning.
My own guess? From the Thomson/Reuters and Wavefunction lists, I like Ames, nuclear receptors, single-molecule spectroscopy, and chaperone proteins. Just behind those are electron transfer and then the triazole click work. I don't see an organic synthesis prize at all; I think this is going to be physical/analytical if it's going to be inside the traditional bounds of chemistry. And with that in mind, the committee might just use the chemistry prize for Venter et al. on DNA sequencing methods, or for Solomon Snyder et al. on neurotransmitters. We shall see!