UCLA Alumni Honored as Nobel Laureates


Randy W. Schekman
Randy W. Schekman, Physiology or Medicine, 2013

For "discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells" [Nobel Prize Citation]

Randy W. Schekman, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with two other scientists, received a B.A. in 1971 from the UCLA College of Letters and Science, in an independent field of concentration in molecular biology. He went on to earn a doctorate at Stanford and has been on the faculty at UC Berkeley since 1976, where he is a professor of molecular and cell biology. He is also an adjunct professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco. Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley.

Schekman was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1948.


Richard F. Heck
Richard F. Heck, Chemistry, 2010

“For the development of palladium-catalyzed cross coupling” [Nobel Prize Citation]

Richard F. Heck, who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with two other scientists, has two chemistry degrees from UCLA: B.S. 1952, Ph.D. 1954. He did his graduate work at UCLA under Medal of Science winner Saul Winstein. Heck's dissertation was entitled "Methoxyl and aryl groups in substitution and rearrangement." He went on to discover the Heck reaction.

Heck worked in industry for the Hercules Corporation before joining the University of Delaware in 1971. He retired in 1989. Photo courtesy of University of Delaware.

Heck was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1931; at age 8 he moved with his parents to Los Angeles.

Elinor Ostrom
Elinor Ostrom, Economics, 2009

“For her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons” [Nobel Prize Citation]

Elinor Ostrom, the first female recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, held three degrees from UCLA: B.A. 1954, M.A. 1962 and Ph.D. 1965. All three were in political science. Ostrom's dissertation was titled "Public entrepreneurship: a case study in ground water basin management."

Ostrom served on the faculty of Indiana University from 1965 to 2012. She received the UCLA Medal in 2011. Photo courtesy of Indiana University.

Ostrom was born in Los Angeles in 1933 and died in Bloomington, Indiana in 2012.

William Sharpe
William Sharpe, Economics, 1990

For "pioneering work in the theory of financial economics" [Nobel Prize Citation]

William Sharpe has three degrees in economics from UCLA: B.A. 1955, M.A. 1956 and Ph.D. 1961. He pays tribute to UCLA professor Aren Alchian, his thesis adviser and role model "who taught me how to think like an economist."

Sharpe was awarded the UCLA Medal in 1998. Photo © the Nobel Foundation, used by permission

William Sharpe was born June 16, 1934.

Bruce Merrifield
Bruce Merrifield, Chemistry, 1984

For "his development of methodology for chemical synthesis on a solid matrix" [Nobel Prize Citation]

Robert Bruce Merrifield came to UCLA as a transfer student from Pasadena City College. After earning his bachelor's degree in chemistry, he worked for a year before returning to UCLA for graduate school. He received his Ph.D. in 1949. In 1997, the UCLA Alumni Association honored Merrifield as Alumnus of the Year.

Robert Bruce Merrifield was born July 21, 1921. He died May 14, 2006.

Glenn Seaborg
Glenn Seaborg, Chemistry, 1951

For "discoveries in the chemistry of the transuranium elements" [Nobel Prize Citation]

Glenn Seaborg worked his way through UCLA in a variety of ways — as stevedore, night watchman, apricot picker and linotype mechanic apprentice, earning his B.A. degree in 1934. Later he attended UC Berkeley where he became a faculty member and chancellor. Seaborg talked about the influence of "John Mead Adams of UCLA who taught a course in atomic physics in which I learned about nuclear physics. After that course, I knew that I wanted to get into nuclear research."

Seaborg kept close ties with the UCLA Chemistry Department; the annual Seaborg Symposium is still held in his honor.

Glenn Seaborg was born April 19, 1912 and died February 1999.

Ralph Bunche
Ralph Bunche, Peace Prize, 1950

"May there be, in our time, at long last, a world at peace in which we, the people, may for once begin to make full use of the great good that is in us." [Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech]

Ralph Bunche enrolled at UCLA in 1922, when the school was known as the Southern Branch of the University of California. He played football and basketball, and worked on the campus paper and yearbook. When the debate society declined to accept him because he was Black, he started another debate society. He graduated summa cum laude in 1927 with a B.A. in political science.

In 1950 Bunche spoke at UCLA’s commencement. In 1969 he returned to campus for the dedication of Bunche Hall.

UCLA Library Ralph Bunche Centenary Exhibit

Ralph Bunche was born August 7, 1904 and died December 9, 1971.


For Faculty Nobel Laureates, see the Faculty Honors and Awards section.

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Selected Honors held by UCLA Alumni and Students