NYAS, Blavatnik Foundation Names Inaugural UK Laureates

NYAS, Blavatnik Foundation Names Inaugural UK Laureates

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences have announced the inaugural cohort of laureates and finalists of the 2018 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the United Kingdom.

Established in the United States in 2007 and modeled after the Nobel Prize, the Blavatnik Awards in the UK are the largest unrestricted cash prizes available exclusively to young scientists in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Island and are designed to honor scientists under the age of 42 — when recognition and financial support is most needed and has the potential to propel scientific innovation and discovery. One laureate in three categories — Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, and Chemistry — will each receive an unrestricted prize of $100,000; in addition, two finalists in each category will receive unrestricted prizes of $30,000.

The laureate in the Life Sciences category is M. Madan Babu (Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge), who has employed techniques from structural biology, genomics, and bioinformatics to reveal how G-protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs) selectively couple to specific G-proteins. Timothy Behrens (University of Oxford) and John Briggs (MRC) were named as finalists in the category. Behrens was recognized for combining mathematical models with behavioral experiments and neural recordings to uncover at a cellular level how the brain stores abstract information about relationships between things in the world, and how we use this mental map in decision-making, while Briggs used cryo-electron tomography combined with fluorescence imaging and other techniques to visualize the molecular assembly processes of viral particles such as HIV at unprecedented resolution.

The laureate in the Chemistry category is Andrew L. Goodwin (University of Oxford), recognized for his studies of the chemistry and physics of functional materials, which have unique magnetic, optical, and electrical properties. Robert Hilton (Durham University) and Philipp Kukura (University of Oxford) were finalists in the category. Hilton was recognized for his research providing new insights into the Earth's long-term carbon cycle and the natural processes that transfer carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and rocks, while Kukura was honored for his pioneering efforts in single-molecule scale microscopy and spectroscopy, enabling the study of native, unlabeled molecules in real time.

The Physical Sciences and Engineering laureate is Henry Snaith (University of Oxford), who was recognized for his pioneering work in developing new low-cost and high-efficiency solar cells based on metal halide perovskite materials, which has not only created a new research field but also has the potential to deliver solar energy to the market at a fraction of the cost of materials used currently. Claudia de Rham (Imperial College London) was a finalist for her research, which has revolutionized the understanding of the nature of gravity and led to a new field of study that connects cosmology with particle physics and the nature of spacetime, while Andrew Levan (University of Warwick) was recognized for his work in the field of extragalactic research aimed at understanding extreme transient events such as gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, and their roles as cosmological probes.

"In the spirit of the United Kingdom's tradition of scientific excellence and pursuit of knowledge, we are pleased to recognize and support these inaugural Blavatnik Awards Laureates and Finalists as they pursue their careers in advancing their respected fields," said Sir Leonard Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries and head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation. "Through the promise that they have already demonstrated, we are confident they will continue pushing the boundaries of discovery and innovation."