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2018 Blavatnik National Awards Ceremony and Gala

In collaboration with the New York Academy of Sciences, the Blavatnik Family Foundation hosts its fifth annual Ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History

Published October 15, 2018

2018 Blavatnik National Awards Ceremony and Gala

Celebrating America’s most promising scientists aged 42 years and younger, the fifth annual Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists Ceremony and Gala was held on Monday September 24, 2018 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The Ceremony was attended by some of the country’s most prominent figures in science, business, and philanthropy. The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, which began in 2007 and is administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, confers the largest unrestricted prize for early-career scientists: $250,000 per Laureate.

Distinguished guests who attended the ceremony included 2001 Nobel Laureate Barry Sharpless of The Scripps Research Institute; 2006 Nobel Laureate Roger D. Kornberg of Stanford University; 2000 Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel of Columbia University; Andrew Hamilton, President of New York University; Lawrence S. Bacow, President of Harvard University; Eric Lander, Director and Founder of the Broad Institute; Bruce Stillman, President of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Nili Cohen, President of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities; Joseph KIafter, President of Tel Aviv University; Warner Music Group CEO, Steve Cooper; and Australian writer-director-producer Baz Luhrmann. Musicians from the Juilliard School Orchestra performed throughout the evening.

Sergei Kalinin

Sergei Kalinin

Neal Devaraj

Neal Devaraj

Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne, President of Stanford University and renowned neuroscientist, served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening. The three 2018 Blavatnik National Laureates were presented with their medals by Len Blavatnik, the Founder and Chairman of Access Industries, the Blavatnik Family Foundation and member of the Academy’s President’s council, then each gave a short presentation on their research:

Life Sciences Laureate Janelle Ayres, PhD, of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies was recognized for her pioneering research on disease tolerance and host-pathogen interactions. Dr. Ayres’ research has the potential to solve one of the greatest current public health threats: anti-microbial resistance.

Physical Sciences & Engineering Laureate Sergei V. Kalinin, PhD, of Oak Ridge National Laboratory was celebrated for creating novel techniques to study, measure, and control the functionality of nanomaterials at the atomic and nanoscale. Dr. Kalinin’s work in manipulating individual atoms has the potential to enable scientists to create new classes of materials by assembling matter atom-by-atom.

Chemistry Laureate Neal K. Devaraj, PhD, of the University of California, San Diego was honored for his transformative work on the synthesis of artificial cells and membranes, creating an exciting new field of research that aims to bring greater understanding to the origins of life, a major goal in synthetic biology.

The distinguished jury selected these three National Laureates from 286 nominations submitted by 146 research institutions across 42 States.

Len Blavatnik with Janelle Ayres

Len Blavatnik with Janelle Ayres

Dr. Janelle Ayres, 2018 Blavatnik National Life Sciences Laureate


Dr. Sergei V. Kalinin, 2018 Blavatnik National Laureate, PS&E


Dr. Neal K. Devaraj, 2018 Blavatnik National Chemistry Laureate


Twenty-eight 2018 Blavatnik National Finalists were also honored during the evening. Dr. Tessier-Lavigne remarked that 45% of this year’s National Honorees were immigrants hailing from nine different countries. Originally hailing from Canada himself he commented, “I feel a special bond with all of them as an immigrant myself.” Dr. Tessier-Lavigne concluded the ceremony with a ‘fireside chat’ with the three Laureates, posing questions related to the future of their respective disciplines and the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education.


To learn more about the 2018 Blavatnik National Laureates please visit the Blavatnik website here and follow us on Twitter and Facebook @BlavatnikAwards.