- Largest unrestricted prize for young scientists awards $100,000 apiece to three scientists from UK universities for their work across Life Sciences, Physical Sciences & Engineering, and Chemistry
- Six additional UK Finalists to receive $30,000 each
London, UK: Today, the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences have announced the recipients of the 2021 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK. Now in its fourth year, the Awards are the largest cash prize available to scientists aged 42 or younger.
This year’s Laureates, who will each receive $100,000 (£76,000), are:
- Professor Sinéad Farrington (Physical Sciences & Engineering)—The University of Edinburgh
- Professor Stephen L. Brusatte (Life Sciences)—The University of Edinburgh
- Professor Daniele Leonori (Chemistry)—The University of Manchester
In each of the three categories—Life Sciences, Physical Sciences & Engineering, and Chemistry—a jury of leading scientists from across the UK also selected two Finalists, who will each receive $30,000 (£23,000). This year’s Finalists are:
- Professor Artem Mishchenko (Physical Sciences & Engineering)—The University of Manchester
- Professor Themis Prodromakis (Physical Sciences & Engineering)—University of Southampton
- Dr. John Marioni (Life Sciences)—The European Bioinformatics Institute and University of Cambridge
- Professor Edze Westra (Life Sciences)—University of Exeter
- Dr. David P. Mills (Chemistry)—The University of Manchester
- Professor Matthew Powner (Chemistry)—University College London
The honourees are recognised for their research which is already transforming technology and our understanding of the world.
“The UK has always been recognised and admired for its scientific excellence,” commented Sir Leonard Blavatnik, Founder and Chairman of Access Industries, head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, and member of the President’s Council of the New York Academy of Sciences. “Each of this year’s Blavatnik Awards honourees is a rising star in their respective fields and it is a great pleasure to give them the global recognition they so richly deserve.”
This year’s Awards have brought different UK institutions into the spotlight. For the first time we see The University of Edinburgh on the list represented by not one, but two Award winners.
Professor Sinéad Farrington has been named the Physical Sciences & Engineering Laureate. Her work at CERN has advanced our understanding of the properties of the Higgs boson, the elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics that was discovered in 2012. The Life Sciences Laureate, Professor Stephen L. Brusatte, is also based in Edinburgh. Professor Brusatte, a world-renowned palaeontologist and scientific author, has pioneered research that aims to improve our understanding of the extinction of dinosaurs and the origins of birds from dinosaurs.
The Laureate in Chemistry is Professor Daniele Leonori, whose advances in photo-catalysis reactions—light-induced chemical reactions—have immediate applications in pharmaceutical chemistry. Continuing the northern powerhouse theme, Professor Leonori is one of three of this year’s honourees carrying out their research at The University of Manchester.
Further details on all of this year’s honourees are available below.
Professor Nicholas B. Dirks, President and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences and Chair of the Awards’ Scientific Advisory Council noted, “We are excited to see new institutions amongst this year’s honoured Blavatnik Awards UK institutions, including The University of Edinburgh and the European Bioinformatics Institute. The UK’s robust scientific academic community and vibrant scientific engagement programmes for the general public are a launch pad for the next generation of scientific innovators, including the honourees of the 2021 Blavatnik Awards in the UK.”
The 2021 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK received 99 nominations from 49 academic and research institutions across the UK. The Blavatnik Awards in the UK sit alongside their global counterparts, the Blavatnik National Awards and the Blavatnik Regional Awards in the United States and the Blavatnik Awards in Israel, all of which honour and support exceptional early-career scientists. By the close of 2021, the Blavatnik Awards will have recognised over 350 young scientists and engineers in the US, Israel, and the UK, and awarded prizes totalling US$11.9 M (£9.1 M). Of all the Award recipients, 61 percent are immigrants to the country in which they were recognised, hailing from 47 countries across six continents.
The 2021 Blavatnik Awards in the UK Laureates and Finalists will be honoured, as pandemic restrictions allow, at a black-tie gala dinner and ceremony at Banqueting House in London, currently tentatively scheduled for 8th June 2021. The following day, on 9th June 2021, the honourees will present their research with a series of short, interactive lectures at a free public symposium, “Innovating for a Better Future: 9 Young Scientists Transforming our World”, also to be held at Banqueting House, from 11:00 to 18:00. To attend the symposium, go to nyas.org/innovating2021 to register.
For further details about the 2021 Blavatnik Awards in the UK Laureates and Finalists, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, and the New York Academy of Sciences, please see below.
About the Laureates
Prof. Stephen L. Brusatte is a palaeontologist whose work describes the anatomy, genealogy, evolution, and extinction of the dinosaurs, the origin of birds from dinosaurs, and the expansion of mammalian species after dinosaur extinction. He has pioneered new techniques to study evolutionary transitions—periods of history which are similar to some of the sudden changes in climate occurring today. Prof. Brusatte is a leading expert on theropods, a group of dinosaurs that includes Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptor, and Allosaurus, and has described several new species. He is also a powerful science communicator, having penned a New York Times bestselling book, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, authored numerous articles for Scientific American, and is the paleontology consultant for the upcoming 2022 science fiction adventure film, Jurassic World III.
Nearly all molecules of interest to chemists, including drug candidates and agrochemicals, contain the elements carbon and nitrogen. However, bonds between these two atoms are not always easy to form in the laboratory. Prof. Daniele Leonori has shown that it is possible to form these strong bonds using visible light to catalyse, or accelerate, the chemical reaction. This technique is starting to be applied by pharmaceutical companies to facilitate new and efficient routes to lifesaving drugs and other valuable molecules.
Physical Sciences & Engineering
Prof. Sinéad Farrington is a leading particle physicist working to understand how nature works at its most fundamental level. She led a team of over 100 physicists at the ATLAS experiment at CERN, which in 2013 announced the first direct measurement of a Higgs boson interacting with particles that make up matter in the universe, known as fermions. Discovered only a year earlier by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN, the Higgs boson is believed to give mass to all fermions through Yukawa interactions. The 2013 measurement provided the first direct experimental confirmation of Yukawa interactions by establishing the Higgs boson’s interaction with a type of fermion known as a tau lepton. She continues to lead efforts to explore the frontiers of particle physics, focusing on searches for new particles beyond the Standard Model and developing future capabilities of ATLAS.
About the Finalists
Computational biologist, Dr. John Marioni has pioneered the statistical analysis of gene expression patterns in individual cells, leading to a radical paradigm shift in the field of transcriptomics—the study of the complete set of RNA transcripts that are produced by the genome at single cell resolution. Understanding gene expression in single cells promises to have a profound effect on our knowledge of disease progression, drug metabolism, ageing, and developmental biology.
Prof. Edze Westra is an evolutionary microbiologist who studies how bacteria protect themselves from virus attacks—information we can use to develop alternatives to conventional antibiotics. By investigating the well-known bacterial immune system, CRISPR-Cas, he has laid the necessary groundwork for the development of strategies to circumvent antibiotic resistance, aiding in the development of novel antibiotics, and next generation bacteria-enabled therapeutics.
Recent advances have enabled vast amounts of computer data to be confined within increasingly small storage devices. New devices based upon single-molecule magnet technology—quite literally single molecules with magnetic properties—will enable this miniaturisation to continue and could make cloud computing and the ‘internet of things’ more practical. Inorganic chemist, Dr. David P. Mills, has used the element dysprosium to prepare a single-molecule magnet that has revitalised the field and brought commercial viability of this technology into focus.
The mystery of the origin of life on Earth has fascinated humans for thousands of years. Organic chemist, Prof. Matthew Powner is trying to discover how the beautiful complexity of life could have originated from simple molecules and elements. His efforts have already uncovered plausible mechanisms for events that could have shaped the basic structures and functions of the first cells on Earth. Along the way, he has discovered new chemical reactions that can be used to synthesise valuable molecules like nucleic acids, amino acids, and peptides.
Physical Sciences & Engineering
Prof. Artem Mishchenko is a condensed matter physicist who has revealed a number of unusual quantum physics phenomena by stacking many layers of two-dimensional materials on top of each other. Some of his discoveries are very surprising as they were previously thought to be forbidden in these stacks. His work holds great potential for developing novel, next-generation electronic transistors for applications in the electronics industry, and for advancing our understanding of quantum materials.
Electronic engineer and nanotechnologist, Prof. Themis Prodromakis, has made remarkable contributions in devising new computer hardware that supports the rapidly increasing computational demands of AI applications. His technology is built upon an electronic component known as a “memristor”, which simultaneously stores multiple datasets in a single component. He has developed some of the first memristor technologies that are promising for real applications in the information and biomedical industries. His technology has been successfully commercialised and is currently in use by global businesses and standards organisations.
About the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists
The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, established by the Blavatnik Family Foundation in the United States in 2007 and independently administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, began by identifying outstanding regional scientific talent in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The Blavatnik National Awards were first awarded in 2014, and in 2017 the Awards were expanded to honour faculty-rank scientists in the United Kingdom and in Israel. For updates about the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, please visit www.blavatnikawards.org or follow us on Twitter and Facebook (@BlavatnikAwards).
About the Blavatnik Family Foundation
The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of world-renowned educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Russia, and throughout the world. The Foundation is headed by Sir Leonard Blavatnik, a global industrialist and philanthropist and the Founder and Chairman of Access Industries, a privately-held industrial group based in the US with global strategic interests. Visit: www.accessindustries.com or www.blavatnikfoundation.org.
About the New York Academy of Sciences
The New York of Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science for the benefit of society. With more than 20,000 Members in 100 countries, the Academy advances scientific and technical knowledge, addresses global challenges with science-based solutions, and sponsors a wide variety of educational initiatives at all levels for STEM and STEM related fields. The Academy hosts programmes and publishes content in the life and physical sciences, the social sciences, nutrition, artificial intelligence, computer science, and sustainability. The Academy also provides professional and educational resources for researchers across all phases of their careers. Please visit us online at www.nyas.org.