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Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists Announces the 2020 Laureates

A molecular biophysicist, an organic chemist, and an astrophysicist honored with top prize

Published July 22, 2020

Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists Announces the 2020 Laureates

Today, three talented young scientists were named Laureates of the 2020 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. Each will receive $250,000, the largest unrestricted scientific prize offered to America’s most-promising, young, faculty-level scientific researchers. Scientists are eligible for the Award if they are aged 42 years and younger. The 2020 Laureates are:

  • Life Sciences: Clifford Brangwynne, PhD of Princeton University, for a discovery that upends previous understandings of the internal organization of cells.
  • Chemistry: William R. Dichtel, PhD, of Northwestern University, for pioneering methods to create novel, porous materials from simple, carbon-based building blocks.
  • Physical Sciences & Engineering: Brian Metzger, PhD of Columbia University, for settling a long-standing question about the origin of gold and other heavy elements in the universe.

“Science demands creativity, knowledge and persistence to solve the world’s most challenging problems,” said Len Blavatnik, Founder and Chairman of Access Industries, Head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Member of the Academy's President’s Council. “Through dedication to their research, these outstanding young scientists have harnessed their diverse interdisciplinary backgrounds to make discoveries that will change our society for the better.”

Nicholas B. Dirks, the Academy’s new President and CEO said, “This year marks the first time the Blavatnik National Awards has Laureates from Princeton University, Columbia University or Northwestern University, and we congratulate these institutions for their strong support of cutting-edge research in the sciences. We look forward to inviting these three winning scientists to participate as Laureates in the Academy, sharing their future innovations and discoveries with our members and the world at large.”

The 2020 Blavatnik National Awards competition received 305 nominees from 161 research institutions across 41 states. Nominees were evaluated by three independent juries—one for each of the Awards’ categories of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences & Engineering and Chemistry. The judging panels, composed of some of America’s most distinguished scientists, selected these Laureates from a group of 31 finalists.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the annual Blavatnik National Awards ceremony and gala dinner in honor of the 2020 Laureates and Finalists has been postponed to 2021. The 2020 Blavatnik National Awards honorees will be celebrated alongside the 2021 Blavatnik National Awards honorees, on September 27, 2021, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

To learn more about this year’s Blavatnik Laureates and other honorees, please visit the Blavatnik Awards website here and follow the Awards on Facebook and Twitter: @BlavatnikAwards