Carolyn Bertozzi ’84 Becomes First Lexington High School Graduate to Win the Nobel Prize

William Tang and Seiya Saneyoshi

Carolyn Bertozzi, a Lexington High School graduate and Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, was one of three scientists awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her advancements in . She became the eighth woman to win the Prize since its inception in 1901.
After graduating from LHS in 1984, Bertozzi attended Harvard University, where she graduated summa cum laude in chemistry. During the late 1990s and 2000s, Bertozzi, as part of the faculty at the University of California Berkeley, developed bioorthogonal reactions and click chemistry.

Bertozzi’s work has improved the ability for researchers to explore cells and the biological pathways that take place within them. Her developments, which have led to improved cancer treatments, “have enhanced our capabilities and considerably deepened and widened our knowledge and understanding,” the Nobel Committee wrote in a press release.

Bertozzi’s winning of the Nobel comes at a time when gender disparities in STEM are increasingly being addressed, and inspired many to lead efforts to close such gender gap. One of these organizations is the STEMinists, a group that holds open discussions for girls and nonbinary individuals pursuing the sciences. The STEMinists is led by senior Kira Tang and is advised by Michaela Tracy, a teacher in the Math Department.

“STEMinists’ goal is to be a safe space and also provide opportunities for girls and non binary people to participate in conversations that otherwise might get overshadowed,” Tang said. In addition to the communal conversations, STEMinists are working to bring guest speakers who are intended to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM.

Not only does Tang admire the scientific work that Bertozzi has committed to, but also her act as a pioneer in a field that men have dominated for centuries. “I have always been inspired by seeing women in math and science fields,” Tang said.

“Not only does Bertozzi seem like she is having fun with science [but also] she is very open about being unconfident,” Tang said. “If the person is open about their experience, it can really resonate in your interests, and in your experience.”

Though Bertozzi’s win is a step forward for women, Tang believes that much more must be done to bring equity in the STEM field. Though the number of women working in the field has increased, issues such as the gender wage gap and the glass ceiling continue to hamper progress.

“I see this as an overarching social problem. It is something that we as a larger entity need to change,” Tang said.