In nanoscience, Mildred S. Dresselhaus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was “recognized for her pioneering contributions to the study of phonons, electron-phonon interactions, and thermal transport in nanostructures,” According to the Foundation’s announcement. Dresselhaus has led research investigating bismuth nanowires and carbon nanotubes.
The 2012 laureates in neuroscience, "recognized for elucidating basic neuronal mechanisms underlying perception and decision," are Cornelia Isabella Bargmann of Rockefeller University, who investigates sensory responses in C. elegans; Winfried Denk of Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Germany, who images brain circuits; and Ann M. Graybiel at MIT, whose research elucidates brain states that contribute to the dysregulation of behavior patterns.
The astrophysics prize was awarded for “discovering and characterizing the Kuiper Belt and its largest members, work that led to a major advance in the understanding of the history of our planetary system,” the Foundation stated. David C. Jewitt at the University of California, Los Angeles, who looks to comets for clues about planet formation; Jane Luu at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, who spotted the first Kuiper belt object with Jewitt in 1992; and Michael E. Brown at the California Institute of Technology, whose work contributed to the down-grading of Pluto to dwarf-planet status.
Each field receives $1 million to split among the winners. King Harald of Norway will bestow the prizes in an award ceremony in Oslo on September 4, 2012.