Most Influential Scientists of 2016

In the world of science, new discoveries are made and theories formed. This ever-changing platform attracts the brightest minds. Here are 10 of the most influential scientists of 2016 and their personal contributions in no particular order.


David Kipping

Looking for exomoons

David Kipping

A genius on exoplanets, Kipping is currently an astrophysicist at Columbia University. Kipping received an undergraduate degree and later Master’s in Natural Sciences at Cambridge. Following his studies at Cambridge, Kipping received his Ph.D. from University College London. Kipping has shared his insights and research as a Harvard post-doc fellow. He is most notably known for his research of exomoons. Kipping had studied exoplanets, but he wondered how the exoplanets would be affected if they had exomoons. The concept and discovery of exomoons was revolutionary. This year alone, Kipping hopes to study 300 planets and their potential moons.


Alan Stern

Discovering more about Pluto

Alan Stern giving a thumbsup
Alan Stern stands as one of the year’s most influential scientists. In 2015, NASA’s spacecraft, New Horizons, flew closer to Pluto than any other human-made instrument ever had. Stern is the principal investigator of the New Horizons Pluto trip. His team plans to analyze the collected data from the trip to understand more of this dwarf planet. Stern was also picked to be in TIME’s Top 100 Most Influential People in the World of 2016. He is the current Associate VP of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute.


Cori Bargmann

Using roundworms to understand more about autism and Alzheimer’s Disease

Cori Bargmann

At the Rockefeller University, students can research alongside Cori in the Bargmann lab. In this lab, they have unearthed many discoveries about how behavior is affected by genes and neurons. What has led to this discovery? Roundworms. By altering certain genes in the roundworms, Bargmann noticed that the behavior of the worms had changed. Her work leads to conclusions about the genes behind autism and Alzheimer’s.


Bertolt Meyer

The incredible “Bionic Man”

Bertolt Meyer holding a camera with his bionic hand

Meyer is known for many different things. Currently, he is a professor at the Chemnitz University of Technology. He’s also well known as “The Bionic Man” for hosting a documentary on modern bionics. Born without the lower part of his left arm, Meyer received his first prosthetic at only 3 months old. He now uses an i-limb ultra revolution bionic hand. Meyer stands as a pioneer in modern bionics as he stretches the possibility of i-limb technology.


Marco Drago

Spotting gravitational waves for the first time

Marco Drago at a computer

This Italian was the first human to ever spot gravitational waves from the effects of a massive black hole collision. Drago has been working as a physicist with LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory). While at his research office at Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, he spotted a signal on a detector. The signal was unusually strong that Drago wanted to make sure that it was organic and hadn’t been an injection. When the signal was proven to be valid, the announcement went viral. Drago couldn’t believe that he had detected what Einstein had once theorized.


Cynthia Kenyon

Understanding the genes behind aging

Cynthia Kenyon

Kenyon has taught Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco since 1986. She caught the attention of the science community when in 1993 she discovered a link to genes and lifespans in roundworms. In 2014, Kenyon was pulled onto Google’s Calico team. Calico is a research and development team designed to further understand lifespans and aging. Due to her extensive background in molecular biology and aging genetics, she is now the Vice President of aging research at Calico.



John Donoghue

Creating brain-controlled prosthetics

 John Donoghue and a prosthetic arm

A professor and director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science, Donoghue specializes in how prosthetics can be controlled by the patient’s brain. Last year, Donoghue announced that he will head up a new research center in Switzerland. His research hopes to add even more flexibility, mobility, and independence to anyone with disease or disability.


Jacob Lurie

Changing the way we look at mathematics

Jacob Lurie at a chalkboard

Jacob Lurie is a 38-year-old professor of mathematics at Harvard University. His personal studies have led him to develop derived algebraic geometry, which is a combination of topology and algebraic geometry. He has redefined the usual method of looking at algebraic geometry. He received the the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in mathematics. His works have been published in two books.


Karl Deisseroth

Controlling the brain with light

Karl Deisseroth

Deisseroth developed the concept of “optogenics” in which neurons can be controlled by light. The Deisseroth Lab at Stanford is devoted to researching neural activity imaging, electrophysiology, etc. A clinician in the psychiatry department as well, Deisseroth uses electrical or magnetic stimulation to treat patients. He desires to understand what is happening to the brain when there are psychiatric diseases or episodes. With his research and “optogenics,” Deisseroth hopes to remove the stigma off of psychiatric diseases. Deisseroth is currently the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.


Jack Gilbert

Drawing new conclusions about microbes

 Jack Gilbert

Gilbert has had a long background studying microbiology. Since receiving his PhD in the U.K. and his post-doctoral in Canada, Gilbert now is a microbiologist at the Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago. He seeks to understand the connections between the microbes within us and those around us. Gilbert researches microbes in many different environments. With his team on the Earth Microbiome Project, Gilbert has identified 22 million species. His findings of microbes have led him to a conclusion about gut bacteria and its tendency to create infection after surgery. With Gilbert’s research on microbiomes, he hopes to find solutions that will help individuals in their daily lives.