Who's Getting Blavatnik Family Foundation's New National Awards for Young Scientists?

Young scientists have gained another potential source of support for their work — a wealthy Ukrainian-American industrialist named Len Blavatnik who is super-sizing his efforts to cultivate the next generation of researchers.

The New York Academy of Sciences and the Blavatnik Family Foundation have announced the launch of the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists. The first awards will be handed out in 2014 to scientists that work in the United States and are no older than 42 — no exceptions allowed.

Three awards will be given each year — one to a chemist, one to a life scientist, and one to a researcher in the area of physical sciences and engineering. Each winner will be given $250,000 to spend as they see fit.

"Our goal is to recognize and celebrate exceptional young scientists — to make them examples of what the next generation of young scientists should strive to achieve," Blavatnik said in an announcement. "The Blavatnik Family Foundation is providing critical support to seed innovative work in science and technology that will impact society’s most pressing global problems."

The awards are actually an expansion of a program Blavatnik has funded since 2007. The Regional Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists are available only to young researchers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. With schools like Princeton and Yale within the geographic boundaries of eligibility, there was no shortage of stiff competition for these $30,000 grants, but the new iteration promises grander prizes for a broader pool of applicants.

To be considered for the first round of the national Blavatnik Awards, researchers must meet the strict age standard. They also must be on the faculty at one of the research-heavy institutions deemed eligible to nominate potential recipients. However, there is some leeway in this category — institutions who aren’t listed but have an all-star researcher in their ranks can petition the awards manager, Marley Bruce, to allow their nomination to be considered.

Each of these institutions can nominate only one person in each of the three categories, so prospective grantees must first survive the culling process at their home institution.

Another route to a nomination is through the scientific advisory council, made up of distinguished professors, university presidents, and editors of journals like Scientific American and Nature. Catching the eye of these well-connected individuals can offer a back-door invitation to scientists who face stiff competition for their institution's lone nomination.

Responsibility for choosing the award winners falls on a 60-plus-member panel of judges that includes at least one Nobel laureate. They are looking for scientists whose work satisfies the foundation's three keywords  quality, novelty, and impact.

"The long-term goal of the awards is to create a pipeline of scientific support in which established scientists choose the most outstanding young faculty-rank scientists, who then go on to mentor the next generation of would-be scientists and award winners," New York Academy of Sciences President Ellis Rubinstein told the New York Times.