The Blavatnik Family Foundation, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities announced today the Laureates of the 2021 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in Israel.  This year’s Laureates, who will each receive US$100,000, are: Professor Ido Kaminer (Physical Sciences & Engineering)—Technion – Israel Institute of Technology; Professor Rafal Klajn (Chemistry)—Weizmann Institute of Science; Professor Yossi Yovel (Life Sciences)—Tel Aviv University.

The Blavatnik Awards recognize outstanding, innovative scientists at the early stages of their careers for both their extraordinary achievements and their promise for future discoveries. The prizes are awarded to researchers aged 42 and younger for groundbreaking work in the disciplines of Life Sciences, Chemistry, and Physical Sciences & Engineering. The Blavatnik Awards in Israel sit alongside their international counterparts, the Blavatnik National Awards and Blavatnik Regional Awards in the United States, and the Blavatnik Awards in the United Kingdom.

Len Blavatnik. Photo: Access Industries

The 2021 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in Israel will be conferred, as pandemic restrictions allow, at a ceremony held at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on August 1, 2021. The Laureates will join a cadre of young scientists from across Israel who have been honored by the Blavatnik Awards in Israel since their launch in 2017. In addition, the Laureates will become part of the international Blavatnik Science Scholars community, which, by the close of 2021, will total 350 young scientists from around the world. Each summer the Laureates are invited to attend the annual Blavatnik Science Symposium in New York City at the New York Academy of Sciences, where past and present Blavatnik Awards honorees from around the world come together to share new ideas and forge collaborations for novel, cross-disciplinary research.

“The passing year has demonstrated just how important groundbreaking science is,” said Len Blavatnik, Founder and Chairman of Access Industries and Head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation. “It’s imperative to encourage young scientists to venture broadly in their respective fields and to push the boundaries of scientific discovery. The achievements by these three outstanding Israeli scientists are testament to their brilliance, perseverance, and imagination—characteristics held by many young Israeli researchers who will continue to make remarkable contributions to science for generations to come.”

Nicholas B. Dirks, President and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences, said that “The 2021 Blavatnik Awards in Israel Laureates are an impressive group of scientific pioneers. On behalf of the New York Academy of Sciences, we are proud of the contributions that these young scientists in Israel are making to the global scientific community, improving lives for the better through their research. We congratulate them on their achievements and look forward to seeing what their future holds.”

Professor Nili Cohen, President of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, said: “In the midst of a challenging year, we are extremely proud that our young scientists are venturing forward to new heights, and advancing scientific innovation and breakthrough. Together with the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences, we are delighted to honor these exceptional Israeli scientists with this prestigious Award.”

During the nomination period for the 2021 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in Israel, 37 nominations were received from seven universities across the country. Members of the Awards’ Scientific Advisory Council, which includes Nobel Laureates, Professors Aaron Ciechanover and David Gross, along with Chairman of the Israel Space Agency and Chairman of the National Council for R&D for the Ministry of Science and Technology of Israel, Professor Isaac Ben-Israel, were also invited to submit nominations. Three distinguished juries composed of leading scientists representing the three disciplinary categories and lead by Israel Academy members, selected the 2021 Laureates.

About the Laureates

PHYSICAL SCIENCES & ENGINEERING:

Prof. Ido Kaminer, Assistant Professor, The Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

The work of Ido Kaminer, PhD, has influenced fundamental physics research with real world applications by transforming our understanding of the quantum nature of light-matter interactions. New technologies developed in his laboratory open up the possibility of compact and tunable X-ray apparatuses for applications such as medical imaging and security scanning. He has also uncovered new aspects of the Cherenkov Effect—a burst of light seen when high-speed particles travel through gas, liquid, or solid—that was first discovered in 1934. The Cherenkov Effect was thought to be fully understood, but Professor Kaminer discovered hidden quantum features not previously identified by classical physics. This discovery led him to develop novel high energy particle detectors for particle accelerators such as the one at CERN.

Ido Kaminer. Photo: BAYS Israel Chem Laureate
CHEMISTRY:

Prof. Rafal Klajn, Associate Professor and Head of the Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for Molecular Design, Weizmann Institute of Science

Most man-made materials are intrinsically static, and thus not capable of undergoing change in response to external signals. The ability to react to external stimuli, such as light, heat, and touch, is fundamental to the existence and functioning of living organisms. Organic chemist, Rafal Klajn, PhD, has developed dynamic nanomaterials that are engineered to possess some of these “life-like” characteristics. For example, he has created cube-shaped, magnetic nanoparticles that are capable of self-assembling into complex double-helical materials in the presence of a magnetic field.  These and other dynamic nanomaterials have potential applications in such diverse fields as water purification, energy storage, and catalysis.

Rafal Klajn. Photo: BAYS Israel Chem Laureate
LIFE SCIENCES:

Prof. Yossi Yovel, Associate Professor of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Israel Young Academy member

Yossi Yovel, Ph.D., is working to bridge the gap between two of the most influential fields in biology—ecology, the study of animals in their environment, and neuroscience, the study of how the brain controls actions. He has helped to establish the new field of neuroecology, the study of how the brain controls behavior in a rapidly changing natural environment; this combination is crucial to our understanding of biological processes in the natural world. Professor Yovel uses bats to study behavioral responses.

Yossi Yovel. Photo: BAYS Laureate in Israel

He is a leading expert on the use of bats in scientific research and studies their use of echolocation to perceive and navigate through the world as a model for how the brain integrates sensory information to guide behavior. He has developed novel miniaturized GPS and other devices that monitor the behavior of freely moving bats in the wild. This work provides broader insight into group behaviors, integration of sensory information in the brain, and real-time decision making. Yovel also applies his understanding of bat echolocation in a range of robots. Yovel has made his technology freely available; it is used in field work internationally and has the potential to aid in engineering acoustic control of autonomous vehicles.

Photos: Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists (BAYS)

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