On the evening of April 7, 2019, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, in collaboration with The New York Academy of Sciences and The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (IASH), hosted its second Ceremony and Gala for the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in Israel at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Prominent leaders across Israel from academia, business and philanthropy attended the event.
Celebrations started earlier that day at the official residence of the President of Israel hosted by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin; in addition to the Blavatnik Awards the occasion marked the beginning of a unique international scientific partnership between the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the National Academy of Sciences in the United States — the “Len Blavatnik USA-Israel Scientific Forum,” which will be an annual two day bilateral symposia alternating between the US and Israel that seeks to increase connections and opportunities between labs in Israel and the US. Guests of the President included the three Blavatnik Award Laureates, representatives from IASH, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, and Dr. Brooke Grindlinger from the New York Academy of Sciences. The official meeting was followed by a brunch hosted by IASH at their Jerusalem headquarters.
Later in the evening, ceremony festivities at the Israel Museum began. IASH President Professor Nili Cohen opened the ceremony following a short opening film highlighting the history of the Blavatnik Awards. In commenting on Israel’s long relationship with science, Prof. Cohen remarked that “Higher education institutions were established in Israel many years before the establishment of the state [of Israel]. The focus on science and culture has yielded outstanding achievements including Nobel Laureates, Turing Awardees, Fields Medalists,” and also included the success of the Blavatnik Awards and its Laureates in Israel. Dana Weiss, Chief Political Analyst and host of Israel’s “Saturday Night with Dana Weiss,” served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, ushering in a fanfare processional introducing the three Laureates, who were chosen by a distinguished panel of judges from across Israel and selected from 33 nominations submitted by seven of Israel’s top universities and independent research institutions. The 2019 Israel Laureates are:
2019 Chemistry Laureate: Dr. Moran Bercovici is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. He was recognized for his development of novel microfluidic technologies for microscale manipulations of fluids and molecules, which have applications in advanced chemical and biochemical analysis, including “Lab on a Chip” technologies.
2019 Physical Sciences & Engineering Laureate: Dr. Erez Berg is an Associate Professor in the Department of Condensed Matter Physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He was recognized for developing novel theoretical and computational tools to study long-standing and emerging questions in quantum materials.
2019 Life Sciences Laureate: Dr. Michal Rivlin is a Senior Scientist in the Department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science. She was recognized for her discovery that cells in the adult retina can dynamically change their response properties to stimuli such as motion and light — challenging the dogma that responses of retinal cells are fixed and hardwired.
After the processional, the Holy Land Singers entertained guests with a live vocal performance of “A Kind of Magic” while an original film played highlighting the history of transformative inventions by Israel’s top scientists. The combined film-musical number was followed by Dr. Brooke Grindlinger, Chief Scientific Officer from The New York Academy of Sciences who thanked the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities as their Blavatnik Award’s partner in Israel. She also acknowledged the Awards’ Jury Chairs, Members of the Jury, Scientific Advisory Council, and the Presidents and Rectors of Israel’s Universities that nominated their best and brightest scientists for the Award.
The ceremonies included the presentation of the medals to the 2019 Laureates, along with films dedicated to the lives and research of each Laureate. The Laureates continued with short scientific presentations on stage.
Dr. Marcia McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences, was the keynote speaker for the evening. She commented, “Science is the one proven method for allowing a group of people to improve their quality of life without it coming at the expense of someone else. It is the tide that can raise all ships.” During the ceremony she also announced the joint collaboration between the IASH and the National Academy of Sciences that was honored earlier that the day by Israel’s president. The evening concluded with an exciting interactive presentation by world-renowned master mentalist, Lior Suchard and finally, the official Blavatnik Awards ceremony “Toast to Science.”