America's Top Young Researchers Named Finalists for 2017 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists

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Competing for quarter of a million dollar prizes, thirty Life Scientists, Chemists and Physicists/Engineers are tackling the world’s most important challenges.

Since the Blavatnik Awards were established, so many of our Laureates and Finalists have continued to make groundbreaking discoveries and become leaders in their respective fields.

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences today announced the Finalists for the 2017 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. From a pool of 308 nominees – the most promising scientific researchers aged 42 years and younger at America’s top academic and research institutions – the 30 Finalists will now compete for the largest unrestricted awards of their kind for early career scientists and engineers. Ultimately, three winners will be selected based on their extraordinary accomplishments and their promise for the future.

The full list of 2017 National Finalists and brief summaries of their work can be found on the Blavatnik Awards website: http://blavatnikawards.org/honorees/national-finalists/

“Since the Blavatnik Awards were established, so many of our Laureates and Finalists have continued to make groundbreaking discoveries and become leaders in their respective fields,” said Len Blavatnik, Founder and Chairman of Access Industries, head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, and an Academy Board Governor. Indeed, in the last year alone, four former Blavatnik awardees were named members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. Previous honorees have gone on to drive on-the-ground efforts against infectious diseases like Zika and Ebola, discover new exoplanets and observe gravitational waves, and be recognized with other high honors including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the Breakthrough Prize.

“Just imagine how hard it would be for America’s leading universities and national laboratories to choose the single most promising young researcher in each of these fields,” said Ellis Rubinstein, President and CEO of the Academy and Chair of the Science Advisory Council. “So identifying the 30 Finalists – not to mention the eventual winners – is, for our renowned judges, as challenging as naming Nobel Prize winners.”

Said Blavatnik: “We look forward to learning of the directions that the pioneering work of the 2017 National Finalists will take in the coming years. I want to especially thank our advisors and judges, who themselves include 8 Nobel Laureates, 17 National Medal of Science recipients, and 36 National Academy of Sciences members, for their devotion and judgment.”

The annual Blavatnik Awards, established in 2007 by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, recognize exceptional young researchers who will drive the next generation of innovation by answering today’s most complex and intriguing scientific questions. The Awards program has expanded significantly since it launched 10 years ago with prizes for young scientists in the greater New York region. With this year’s addition of the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the United Kingdom and in Israel, there are now regional, national and international Blavatnik young scientist honors. The international awards were launched in the same year that the Academy celebrates its 200th anniversary.

2017: A Year of Diverse Research Directions

The development of extraordinary new technologies for genome editing, optogenetics (the use of light to control living cells) and the rapid creation of peptides (small chains of amino acids) for therapeutic compounds are just a few examples of the cutting edge research being conducted by the 2017 National Finalists in Life Sciences. They are also working on energy conversion in bacterial nanowires (tendrils extending from bacteria that conduct electricity) and the biomechanics of tissue morphogenesis (a biological process that shapes organs); uncovering fundamental mechanisms governing gene expression and regulation; and combining unique computational approaches to study the evolution of infectious disease transmission, cancer dynamics, and genomes.

The 2017 National Finalists in Chemistry are performing revolutionary research including the development of a novel methodology to create biodegradable materials that have been integral to developing new limb-sparing surgical techniques; synthesis and application of functional nanomaterials; RNA-based drug discovery; creating novel imaging techniques by repurposing the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing system; developing assays to probe the toxicity of nanoparticles in physiological and ecological systems; synthesis and application of macromolecules (molecules composed of hundreds of thousands of atoms) in regenerative medicine; and elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which microbiota (an ecological community of various microorganisms found in all multicellular organisms) can influence their host.

Uncovering the origins of the Earth and growth of planets and solving the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter are just two of the fascinating areas of focus for the 2017 National Finalists in Physical Sciences & Engineering. The Finalists are also creating technologies that revolutionize electronics and energy storage; developing the science of social and information networks; exploring novel methods to grow, analyze and manipulate nanomaterials; and engineering metamaterials (materials that have properties not found in nature) that interact with electromagnetic and sound waves in unusual ways.

The National Laureates and Finalists will be honored at an annual awards ceremony on September 25, 2017, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

On July 17 and 18, 2017, the Academy and the Blavatnik Family Foundation will host the fourth annual Blavatnik Science Symposium featuring research of the 2017 National Finalists and Blavatnik Awards honorees from previous years. The event will also include members of the Blavatnik Awards National Jury and Scientific Advisory Council, as well as other scientific luminaries.

To follow the progress of the Blavatnik Awards, please visit the Awards website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@BlavatnikAwards). For media requests, please contact Dennis Tartaglia (dtartaglia(at)tartagliacommunications.com; 732-545-1848).

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About the Blavatnik Family Foundation
The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of leading educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, Europe, and throughout the world. The Foundation is headed by Len Blavatnik, an American industrialist and philanthropist. Mr. Blavatnik is the founder and Chairman of Access Industries, a privately-held U.S. industrial group with global interests in natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications, real estate, technology, and e-commerce. For more detailed information, please visit: http://www.accessindustries.com.

About the New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been driving innovative solutions to society’s challenges by advancing scientific research, education, and policy. With more than 20,000 Members in 100 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. Please visit us online at http://www.nyas.org and follow us on Twitter at @NYASciences.

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