Oxford Blavatnik award winners
L-R: Professor Philipp Kukura, Professor Andrew Goodwin, Professor Henry Snaith, Professor Timothy Behrens.

Image credit: Blavatnik Awards

Pioneering Oxford researchers honoured at Blavatnik science awards

Four Oxford scientists were honoured at the UK's inaugural Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists ceremony, held at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

The new awards celebrate the UK's most promising young faculty-level scientists and form part of the wider Blavatnik Awards programme, established by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences.

Professor Andrew Goodwin of the Department of Chemistry and Professor Henry Snaith of the Department of Physics were named laureates in chemistry and physical sciences & engineering respectively.

Professor Goodwin is a world leader in the study of the chemistry and physics of functional materials that have unique magnetic, optical and electrical properties. His work has revealed the role of structural disorder in these materials, and how this phenomenon can explain unique material properties such as negative thermal expansion, negative compressibility, and exotic magnetic states.

Professor Snaith's pioneering work in developing new, low-cost and high-efficiency solar cells based on metal halide perovskite materials has not only initiated a new research field now studied by scientists around the world, but also has the potential to deliver solar energy to the market at a fraction of the cost of currently used materials.

Also honoured at the ceremony were Professor Timothy Behrens of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Professor Philipp Kukura of the Department of Chemistry, finalists in the life sciences and chemistry categories.

Professor Behrens investigates the biology of the brain that underlies human behaviour. He has uncovered at a cellular level how the brain stores abstract information about relationships between things in the world, and how we use this mental map in decision-making. His discoveries have applications in neural network computing and artificial intelligence, but also on our understanding of cognition and mental health.

Professor Kukura is known for his pioneering efforts in single molecule-scale microscopy and spectroscopy that enable the study of native, unlabelled molecules in real time. His particular focus is on biological macromolecules such as proteins as they interact with drugs or self-assemble with each other.

In this inaugural year of the Blavatnik Awards in the UK, 124 nominations were received from 67 academic and research institutions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. A jury of leading senior scientists and engineers from throughout the UK selected the laureates and finalists. In each category, two finalists were awarded medals plus a prize of US$30,000, and one laureate in each category was awarded a medal and a prize of US$100,000.