History of the Blavatnik Awards

The Blavatnik Family Foundation, with the guidance of the New York Academy of Sciences, founded the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in 2007 to celebrate the innovative achievements of young postdoctoral and faculty scientists who work in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut. 

Unlike awards that honor scientists late in their careers, the Blavatnik Awards aim to identify and encourage promising young scientists early in their careers, when they are most in need of funding and recognition. The intense competition for funding presents a growing challenge for scientific researchers—those who receive financial support are in a better position to bolster their early research efforts and are more likely to identify solutions to the most complex scientific questions and to some of society’s most pressing problems.

The early regional competition of the Blavatnik Awards was distinctive in comparing applicants across many scientific and technological disciplines. A panel of approximately 70 distinguished judges evaluated applications based on the quality of the research, its broad impact and cutting-edge novelty, and how it contributed to the development of interdisciplinary knowledge.

Since 2007, more than 1,000 young scientists have been nominated from more than 70 institutions. The Blavatnik Awards have honored 45 winners and 45 finalists. Past winners and finalists of the Blavatnik Awards have gone on to achieve significant career success. Today, most postdoctoral honorees are tenured or tenure-track faculty members, some faculty honorees have become department chairs or deans, and some have gone on to become investigators for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Awards and honors garnered by the Blavatnik Awards alumni include the Gates Grand Challenge Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, MacArthur Fellowship, IEEE Computer Science Technical Achievement Award, Vilcek Award, Shaw Prize, and NIH Director’s Pioneer Award.

The 2012 awards cycle saw the largest pool of applicants in the program’s history and the greatest number of winners in any one year at that time— 4 faculty members and 5 postdoctoral fellows were named as winners and 2 faculty members as finalists. This testifies to the quality of young scientists in the New York tri-state area and demonstrates that the Blavatnik Awards have become an important honor for young scientists in the region. Following the success of the 2012 program, the Blavatnik Family Foundation announced that it would double the prize money for the regional program beginning in 2013.

In 2013, the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists announced the national expansion of its faculty competition. The goal is to identify the country’s most promising young faculty scientists, beginning with the 2014 awards cycle. Eligible institutions will be able to nominate one candidate for each of three disciplinary categories: Life Sciences, Physical Sciences & Engineering, and Chemistry.  Awarded annually, unrestricted cash prizes of $250,000 will go to three of the country’s most innovative scientific researchers. They will also be published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences and be honored at an awards ceremony held each fall in New York City.