The Blavatnik Family Foundation hosted its annual ceremony celebrating the honorees of the 2019 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the United Kingdom on March 6, 2019 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Distinguished guests attending the ceremony included Mr. Michael Ellis, MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the House of Commons; Film and TV producer Mr. Gregor Cameron; Ms. Amanda Ghost, English singer, songwriter, record producer, music executive and former president of Epic Records; 2010 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Professor Sir Konstantin Novoselov from the University of Manchester; Former UK Minister for Internet Safety and Security and current CEO of BenevolentAl, Baroness Joanna Shields; Dr. Maria Balshaw, CBE, Chief Executive and Accounting Officer for Tate and director of Tate art museums and galleries; and Chief Executive of the British Science Association, Ms. Katherine Mathieson. Watch the 2019 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, UK Opening Ceremony Video here.
Neuroscientist and 2014 Nobel Laureate, Professor John O’Keefe of University College London, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. He remarked, “The Blavatnik Awards are given not just for exceptional work already done, but in support of world-changing work that we believe is yet to be done by these young scientists.” In commenting on the caliber of the 2019 honorees, he mentioned “the young scientists and engineers are among the most dedicated and original thinkers in their spheres…They are making headlines across medical and tech communities for discoveries and innovations in human development and cognition; from novel ways to synthesize drugs and sustainable polymers, to advances in cybersecurity and radical breakthroughs in fundamental physics.” In each scientific category (Chemistry, Physical Sciences & Engineering, Life Sciences), two Finalists were each awarded prizes of US$30,000, and one Laureate in each category was awarded US$100,000. The Awards’ founder, Sir Leonard Blavatnik, presented medals to the three Laureates and six Finalists at the ceremony.
Professor Igor Larrosa of The University of Manchester and Professor Rachel O’Reilly of University of Birmingham were honored as 2019 Chemistry Finalists. Professor Dame Carol Robinson of the University of Oxford introduced the 2019 Laureate in Chemistry, Professor Philipp Kukura, also of the University of Oxford. “Imagine if your weight could be revealed simply by standing under a spotlight. That is effectively what Philipp has done. He has redefined what we believe we can detect and image with light. By introducing a completely new way of using light microscopes he has discovered the third way of measuring weight.” Watch a short film about this year’s three chemistry honorees here.
In the category of Physical Sciences & Engineering, cybersecurity expert and electrical engineer Professor Máire O’Neill from Queen’s University Belfast and mathematician Professor Gustav Holzegel of Imperial College London were honored as Finalists. Professor David Charlton, from University of Birmingham, introduced the 2019 Laureate in Physical Sciences & Engineering, Professor Konstantinos (Kostas) Nikolopoulos, also from the University of Birmingham. Prof. Charlton highlighted Prof. Nikolopoulos’s pivotal role in the discovery of the Higgs boson, one of the biggest breakthroughs in fundamental physics of this century. He said, “The discovery was made through two huge experiments at the CERN laboratory, and Kostas was the leader of a group of physicists on one of the two experiments - ATLAS. Kostas and his team were hunting for the Higgs boson via what’s known as the ‘golden channel’, or its decay into four leptons – and they found it.” The three 2019 Blavatnik Awards Physical Sciences & Engineering honorees were featured in a short film here.
In the category of Life Sciences, computational neuroscientist Professor Timothy Behrens of the University of Oxford and University College London, and developmental biologist Dr. Kathy Niakan of The Francis Crick Institute were honored as Finalists. Professor Jonathon Howard, who traveled from Yale University, introduced the 2019 Laureate in Life Sciences, Professor Ewa Paluch from University College London and the University of Cambridge. Prof. Paluch received the 2019 Blavatnik Award in Life Sciences for her groundbreaking research in cell biology, in particular for her discoveries related to protrusions of the cell membrane known as “blebs,” which drive cell movement and migration. Prof. Howard commented, “Before Ewa, blebs were thought to be signs of sick cells, associated with cell death. Ewa’s discoveries have helped overturn the textbooks…This work will have a broad impact on cell biology, especially in the context of development, stem cells, and cancer.” A film featuring this year’s three Life Sciences honorees can be viewed here.
Following the scientific presentations by the three Laureates, they spoke together with Prof. O’Keefe in a fireside chat. They discussed current topics related to the impact of Brexit on science and supporting young scientists outside of their work. The evening concluded with a Blavatnik Awards tradition, a “Toast to Science,” led by Prof. O’Keefe, Sir Leonard, The New York Academy of Sciences’ President and CEO, Mr. Ellis Rubinstein, and the 2019 Blavatnik UK Laureates.