The winners of America’s largest unrestricted science award for promising young researchers include a neuroscientist from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, an inorganic chemist from MIT, and an electrical engineer from CUNY

NEW YORK, July 20, 2021 – The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences today announced a neuroscientist, an inorganic chemist, and an electrical engineer to be the winners of the 2021 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. Each receives $ 250,000, the largest unrestricted scientific award for America’s most innovative young scientists and engineers.

You are:

  • Kay M. Tye, neuroscientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, who studies the neural pathways of addiction and compulsive behavior.
  • Mircea Dincă, an inorganic chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who develops organometallic frameworks.
  • Andrea Alù, electrical engineer and physicist at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, who studies nanostructured metamaterials.

“These remarkable scientists and engineers are expanding our world through their groundbreaking research,” said Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries, director of the Blavatnik Family Foundation and a member of the President’s Council of the New York Academy of Sciences. “Your discoveries improve the human experience and the future is improved through your work and innovations.”

Nicholas B. Dirks, President and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences, said, “Last year’s pandemic showed that the world needs science more than ever. These new Blavatnik National Awards Laureates for 2021 have forged new ways to use scientific research to create a new and important understanding about ourselves and the world we live in. We welcome these brilliant young scientists to the global New York Academy of Sciences community. “

The Blavatnik National Awards 2021 competition received 298 nominees from 157 research institutions in 38 countries. The three independent juries – one for each of the categories of awards in the life sciences, chemistry and physics and engineering – comprised some of America’s most distinguished scientists. This jury selected the winners from a group of 31 finalists.

The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists will celebrate the 2021 Blavatnik National Awards winners and finalists in a ceremony on September 28 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Due to previous pandemic restrictions, the winners and finalists of the Blavatnik National Awards 2020 and the winners of the Blavatnik Regional Awards 2020 will also be celebrated at this event.

2021 Blavatnik National Awards Laureate in Life Sciences

Kay M. Tye, Ph.D.
Professor, Systems Neuroscience Laboratory
Wylie Vale chair

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Tye has pushed the boundaries of neural circuitry in the brain that can process emotions. She is known for uncovering reward, fear, and learning processing problems that can cause a range of psychiatric disorders. Tye studies the neural circuits that power these emotions and cognitive skills to better understand addiction and depression. For example, she discovered a neural pathway that underlies an animal’s willingness to display compulsive, reward-seeking behavior despite negative consequences. More recently, she has studied the neural circuitry that activates when animals are exposed to social isolation and experiencing a “lonely” state that is particularly noticeable now due to the limitations and increased isolation many are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic is relevant.

“Kay Tye is a pioneering researcher who studies the neural circuits underlying emotions, which are among the most complex and fascinating circuits in the brain,” said Elaine Fuchs, Ph.D., Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor at Rockefeller University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Chairman of the Blavatnik National Awards Life Sciences Jury 2021. “Not only is Kay an excellent neuroscientist, she is an excellent public speaker, explaining her science so clearly that she blinds her audience, and a strong advocate of women in science, which serves as a model for many. It was a unanimous decision to be the Blavatnik National Awards Laureate in Life Sciences 2021. “

2021 Blavatnik National Awards Laureate in Chemistry

Mircea Dincă, Ph.D.
WM Keck Professor of Energy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dincă has discovered ways to make certain porous materials known as organometallic frameworks (MOFs) highly conductive – and thus open up many new applications in sustainability, from gas and steam sensors to energy conversion and storage. He revolutionized the field of MOFs by building them up from certain organic molecules that can both generate charges and conduct electricity, thereby connecting the metal atoms to form a porous and conductive solid. Dincă partnered with Lamborghini to use these new supercapacitors to power future high-performance vehicles, and he co-founded Transaera, a startup that builds MOF-based air cooling units that use less than half the energy of traditional air conditioning.

Scott E. Denmark, Ph.D., Reynold C. Fuson Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Chair of the Chemistry Jury of the Blavatnik National Awards 2021, said, “Mircea Dincă has been widely recognized as the consensus leader in the on of him self-invented field of conductive organometallic frameworks. His creativity, his deep understanding of fundamental principles and their application to solve important chemical problems and his enormous productivity led to his being selected by the jury for the Blavatnik National Award Laureate in Chemistry 2021. “

2021 Blavatnik National Awards Laureate in Physical Sciences and Engineering

Andrea Alù, Ph.D.
Einstein professor of physics
Founding director of the Photonics Initiative at the Advanced Science Research Center
The City University of New York Graduate Center

By adapting the complex interactions of waves with man-made materials, Alù challenges the limits of materials science, leading to scientific breakthroughs that affect a wide range of engineering applications in electromagnetics, nano-optics and acoustics. His work with metamaterials – artificial materials that produce unprecedented behavior in light, sound and heat – demonstrates theoretically and experimentally how cleverly constructed nanostructured materials can push boundaries in physics. Alù’s efforts lead to new and improved material technologies with potential applications in areas such as cellular communications, energy harvesting, radar cloaking, optical computing and nano-optics.

Robbert Dijkgraaf, Ph.D., Director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study and Chairman of the Jury for the 2021 Blavatnik National Awards for Physical Sciences and Engineering, said: “The jury has followed Andrea Alù’s career pretty closely as he did has been a finalist every year since 2016. Meanwhile, his research has only improved, making many groundbreaking discoveries in the field of metamaterials with important technological applications. Additionally, since his initial nomination, he moved to the City University of New York to increase the impact of his work by reaching and working with a much more diverse group of students. Andrea deserves praise for his many courageous steps, both in his research and in his career. “


About the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists

The Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists, established in 2007 by the Blavatnik Family Foundation in the US and independently administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, were first presented in 2014 in the UK and Israel. By the end of 2021, the Blavatnik Awards will award prizes totaling $ 11.9 million. Approximately 60 percent of all recipients are immigrants to the country in which they were recognized and come from 47 countries on six continents, reflecting the Blavatnik Family Foundation’s recognition that important science is a global business. For updates on the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, please visit and continue following Twitter and Facebook @Blavatnikawards.

About the Blavatnik Family Foundation

The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of world-renowned educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, United Kingdom, Israel, Russia, and other countries around the world. The foundation is led by Len Blavatnik, a global industrialist and philanthropist and founder and chairman of Access Industries, a privately held US-based industrial group with global strategic interests. Visit or

Media contact

Kamala Murthy
[email protected]

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