Mother Teresa snagged her peace prize in 1979 for tirelessly working to help children and refugees. Few scientists experience the unique honor of receiving an unexpected phone call with a foreign voice on the other line. The Nobel Prizes -- a set of awards honoring the best work in physics, literature, chemistry, medicine, peace and economics -- are viewed as the highest intellectual honor in the world.
Though there's no clear formula for success, there are certain traits common to many Nobel laureates. People who create paradigm shifts, or major shifts in thinking for a field, are more likely to receive a Nobel Prize for their work.
One way to boost your chances of scoring a Nobel is by placing yourself close to the research at hand.

In the prize's science categories, the people actually conducting the research typically win the Nobel. Alfred Nobel, peace advocate and inventor of dynamite, left the money for the first five awards in his will. For instance, it would be tough to imagine where theoretical physics would be without Albert Einstein's contributions that earned him the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921. Ralph Steinman, a recent winner who passed away from pancreatic cancer, was so engrossed in his cancer vaccine research that he developed and tested an experimental treatment on himself in the years building up to the award [source: Altman and Wade]. Winners typically are well-versed in their field, with some even taking the extra step to explain their work to nonspecialists and general audiences. But once the message becomes clear -- that they've won the Nobel Prize -- life won't be the same.

Instead, they're immersed in their fields and passionate about making a difference in the world.
After that, the phone rang constantly -- Doherty and his family were shocked [source: Doherty].

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