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University of Oxford scientist honoured in annual Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists

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University of Oxford scientist honoured in annual Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists
Professor Susan Perkin, a Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Oxford, has been honoured in the annual Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences have announced the recipients of the 2023 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the United Kingdom. 

Internationally recognised among the scientific community, the Blavatnik Awards are instrumental in expanding the engagement and recognition of young scientists and are providing the support and encouragement needed to drive scientific innovation for the next generation.

Now in its sixth year, the Awards are the largest unrestricted prize available to UK scientists aged 42 or younger, and for the first time ever, all three laureate winners of the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK are women, including Professor Susan Perkin, a Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Oxford.

As a Professor of Physical Chemistry, Susan Perkin studies the intersection of physical chemistry, liquid matter, electrolytes, interfaces, and interaction forces.

She was recognised for experimental observations using a custom-built instrument that she modified – called the Surface Force Balance – to determine the mechanical, optical, electrostatic, and dynamic properties of fluids. 

Her findings reveal crucial information about liquids, leading to a range of outcomes from creating better grid storage for renewable energy to understanding the origin of cellular life.

The other laureates, who will also receive £100,000 each in unrestricted funds, are:  

Professor Clare Burrage, a cosmologist at the University of Nottingham, was named Laureate in Physical Sciences & Engineering. She studies questions and phenomena around dark energy in the Universe, one of the biggest challenges in modern cosmology. Her research has allowed cosmologists to get one step closer to detecting dark energy and to revealing its nature for the first time.

Dr Katie Doores, a virologist from King’s College London, was named the Life Sciences Laureate. She studies how the immune system responds to infection to inform the development of vaccines against biomedically important viruses. Through this research, she aims to aid our preparedness for potential future pandemics.

In each of the three categories – Chemistry, Physical Sciences & Engineering, and Life Sciences – a jury of leading scientists from across the UK also selected two Finalists, who will each receive £30,000. The 2023 Finalists are: 

  • Jesko Köhnke, PhD (Chemistry) – University of Glasgow
  • Andrew L. Lawrence, DPhil (Chemistry) – The University of Edinburgh
  • Jade Alglave, PhD (Physical Sciences & Engineering) – University College London (UCL) and ARM
  • James A. Screen, PhD (Physical Sciences & Engineering) – University of Exeter 
  • Andrew Saxe, PhD (Life Sciences) – University College London (UCL)
  • Pontus Skoglund, PhD (Life Sciences) – The Francis Crick Institute

The honorees are recognised for their research, which is already transforming technology and our understanding of the world. 

“I am proud to recognise and support these outstanding young scientists,” said Sir Leonard Blavatnik, Founder and Chairman of Access Industries and head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation. “Their pioneering research leads the way for future discoveries that will improve the world and benefit all humankind.

Professor Nicholas B. Dirks, President and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences and Chair of the Awards’ Scientific Advisory Council, noted: “From our former Academy leaders, eminent academics including Charlotte Friend and Margaret Mead, to other renowned Academy members over the years such as Marie Curie, Barbara McClintock, Rosalyn Yallow and Gertrude Elion, our Academy has always supported the representation and success of women in science. 

“We are accordingly so very proud to see these three women scientists named as the 2023 Laureates. On behalf of the Academy, we are delighted to administer the Blavatnik Awards in the UK in its sixth year and pleased to see new UK institutions represented among this year’s honoured institutions.”

The 2023 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK received 77 nominations from 43 academic and research institutions across the UK. 

The awards in the UK sit alongside their global counterparts, the Blavatnik National Awards and 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 2023, the Blavatnik Awards will have awarded prizes totalling US$15.4 million. About 60 per cent of all recipients are immigrants to the country in which they were recognised; honourees hail from 52 countries across six continents, reflecting the Blavatnik Family Foundation’s recognition that important science is a global enterprise.

The 2023 Blavatnik Awards in the UK Laureates and Finalists will be honoured at a black-tie gala dinner and award ceremony at Banqueting House in Whitehall, London, on 28 February 2023; Professor Irene Tracey, the Vice-Chancellor at the University of Oxford, will serve as ceremony presenter. 

The following day, on 01 March 2023, from 11.00am to 6.00pm GMT, the honourees will present their research with a series of short, interactive lectures at a free public symposium at the RSA House, located at 8 John Adam St, London.

The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists was established by the Blavatnik Family Foundation in the United States in 2007 and is independently administered by the New York Academy of Sciences.

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 Israel.

Speaking about the Blavatnik Awards, Professor Susan Perkin said: ‘I was amazed and delighted to hear the news of this wonderful award. I look forward to the opportunity it will bring to share my fascination with the microscopic interactions and processes that determine properties of materials all around us.’

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