When Didier Queloz did the work that earned him a Nobel prize (along with Michel Mayor), he was still a PhD student.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell stated

I believe it would demean Nobel Prizes if they were awarded to research students, except in very exceptional cases

What made this case so exceptional that he got the Nobel in spite of having been a PhD student at the time? Why wasn't the Nobel just awarded to his supervisor, Michel Mayor?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Is there something that makes you think Bell's sentiments (which are from 1977 and refer to her own work, and as such could be mere modesty) are shared by the Nobel Committee? Also keep in mind that Queloz was awarded the prize in his early 50s, after he had done a good deal of other word studying exoplanets, whereas Bell was 20 years younger when Hewish was awarded the prize. I'm not saying Bell didn't deserve it, but I do think it's important to point out that the situations are quite different. Bell was only several years out of grad school, unlike Queloz. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ Well, that kind of leads to other questions (which are off topic here, I guess), such as "does the nobel prize reward a discovery or a career?" $\endgroup$
    – usernumber
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ Russell Hulse was also a PhD student (gaining his PhD in 1975 if the Wikipedia bio is correct) but working at Arecibo Observatory during the time of the discovery of PSR B1913+16 which lead to the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics. So this is hardly unprecedented, given the small number of Physics Nobel Prizes that have gone to astronomy. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ Mossbauer received his Nobel Prize in 1961 for his graduate work (PhD awarded 1958). His adviser was not on the prize. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


He shared the 2019 Nobel Prize "for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star". It was shared with Michel Mayor. Maybe Queloz did much of the work and Mayor thought he rightfully deserved some of the credit. Queloz only got a fourth of the money because the prize was split between Mayor-Queloz and James Peebles. Peebles got his half for "for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology."

This was a very unique case because it involved no new physics really just the discovery of what most astronomers knew existed.

  • $\begingroup$ Few expected the discovery of hot Jupiters. $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 21:09

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