Prashant Jain, professor of chemistry and Alumni Scholar, and alum Sara E. Skrabalak (PhD, '06, Suslick) are both finalists in the chemistry category of the 2021 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists.
The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences announced the finalists on June 15, 2021, for the world’s largest unrestricted prize honoring early-career scientists and engineers. Three winners of the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists – in life sciences, chemistry, and physical sciences and engineering – will be announced on July 20, each receiving $250,000 as a Blavatnik National Awards Laureate.
The finalists, culled from 298 nominations by 157 United States research institutions across 38 states, have made trailblazing discoveries in wide-ranging fields, from the neuroscience of addiction to the development of gene-editing technologies, from designing next-generation battery storage to understanding the origins of photosynthesis, from making improvements in computer vision to pioneering new frontiers in polymer chemistry.
The foundation says this about Jain, who is also a professor in the Materials Research Lab and the Beckman Institute and an affiliate faculty member in physics:
"Prashant K. Jain, PhD, a physical chemist, is unlocking more potential functions from some of the most common catalysts, such as iron or platinum, by using gold nanoparticles to harvest energy from light. Shining light on gold nanoparticles creates synchronized vibrations of electrons, called plasmons, within the gold. Jain has discovered that these plasmons concentrate light and trigger new chemical reactions that would not otherwise occur using the catalysts alone. Using this phenomenon, he has developed “plasmonic photosynthesis,” wherein carbon dioxide is converted into fuels and valuable molecules like methane or ethylene, providing a potential method to both replace fossil fuels and harvest carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."
And the foundation says this about Skrabalak, who is a professor at Indiana University:
"Synthesizing materials on the nanoscale is not the only tool scientists have to control a material’s properties. Inorganic and materials chemist Sara Skrabalak, Ph.D., is spearheading new efforts to shape and build the architecture of nanoparticles that can unlock new functionality. Skrabalak‘s methods and techniques can create nanoparticles with beautiful and complex shapes, rivaling even the complexity of snowflakes. She has demonstrated how these new structural features can promote and catalyze reactions, like the splitting of water molecules. Building on her understanding of nanoparticle synthesis, Skrabalak has developed methods for producing nanomaterials at scale and demonstrated the ability to “fingerprint” products using nanoparticles, potentially making counterfeiting more difficult."
Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries, and head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, said that every day young scientists are tirelessly seeking solutions to humanity’s greatest challenges."
“The Blavatnik Awards recognize this scientific brilliance and tenacity as we honor these 31 finalists. We congratulate them on their accomplishments and look forward to their continued, future discoveries and success,” Blavatnik said.
President and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences Nicholas B. Dirks said: “Each year, it is a complete joy to see the very ‘best of the best’ of American science represented by the Blavatnik National Awards Finalists.”
“On behalf of the New York Academy of Sciences, we are extremely proud to administer the Blavatnik National Awards. This prize honors scientists at a pivotal career juncture, where support and recognition can make a huge impact on their career and their potential for future innovations and discoveries,” he said.
Three highly respected independent juries – each representing one of the awards' categories – will determine the winning Laureates, who must be faculty-level scientific researchers and engineers 42 years of age or younger.
The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists will celebrate the 2021 Blavatnik National Awards honorees in a ceremony on Sept. 28 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
The foundation shared descriptions of all the honorees’ research.