2019 Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists

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Professor Xiangfeng Duan has been named one of 31 National Finalists for the 2019 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists.

Chosen from a pool of 343 nominated promising scientific researchers aged 42 years and younger from America’s top academic and research institutions, Duan is one of ten Physical Sciences & Engineering finalists. The finalists were selected based on their extraordinary accomplishments and their promise for the future. 

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Professor Xiangfeng Duan received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from University of Science and Technology and China (USTC) in 1997, master’s degree in chemistry and Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry from Harvard University in 1999 and 2002, respectively. He was a Founding Scientist, Principal Scientist and Manager of Advanced Technology at Nanosys Inc. from 2002 to 2008. He joined UCLA in 2008 as an Assistant Professor and became an Associate Professor in 2012 and a full Professor in 2013. He is an Associate Editor for the journal Nano Research. He has over 200 published articles and over 40 U.S. patents. Duan’s superinsulating aerogel research, recently published in the prestigious journal Science, has drawn broad attention and been widely reported.  

The Blavatnik National Awards, first awarded in 2014, were established by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, recognize and support America’s top scientific innovators in the life sciences, physical sciences and engineering, and chemistry. The finalists will compete for the three spots as the 2018 Blavatnik National Laureates, an honor that comes with an unrestricted cash prize of $250,000, the largest prize of its kind for early career scientists. The awards will be announced on June 26, 2019 and the laureates will be honored at the Blavatnik National Awards on September 23, 2019, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Duan was a National Finalist for the award in 2015 and 2018. The only other UCLA faculty members to be National Finalists for the awards have been Professor Neil Garg in 2018 and Professor Aydogan Ozcan (Department of Electrical Engineering) in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Excerpt from the award announcement:


Xiangfeng Duan (University of California, Los Angeles) – A materials chemist and nanoscientist, Dr. Duan creates versatile nanostructures that can unlock new physical limits or break the boundaries of traditional technologies. His research could help power future electronics or electrical vehicles. Recent highlights include the first realization of pinning-free metal-semiconductor junctions approaching the ideal Schottky-Mott limit predicted in 1930s, the creation of the fastest transistors from atomically thin semiconductors, the development of vastly improved fuel cell catalysts and the invention of the lightest ceramic aerogels for thermal superinsulation under extreme conditions.

“The goal of the Awards is to help solve the world’s greatest scientific and technological challenges by supporting outstanding young scientists and engineers,” said Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries, head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation and member of the President’s Council of the New York Academy of Sciences. “Acknowledging, encouraging and funding stellar scientists early in their careers provides them with the confidence and freedom to channel their energy and creativity into ground-breaking discoveries that benefit society as a whole.”

Ellis Rubinstein, president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences and chair of the Awards’ Scientific Advisory Council, said, “The 2019 Blavatnik National Awards Finalists are part of a growing global community of inventive thinkers and rare problem-solvers that will help define the future. These 31 Finalists are a diverse group of scientists and engineers who are paving the way for new methodologies and ideas that will impact the world on a macro and micro scale. From preserving endangered animal species and reducing our carbon footprint to designing new sustainable materials and therapeutics, their research is forward-thinking and groundbreaking.”

The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, established by the Blavatnik Family Foundation in the United States in 2007 and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, began by identifying outstanding regional scientific talent in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The Blavatnik National Awards were launched in 2014 and, in 2017, the Awards were expanded to young scientists in the United Kingdom and Israel. By the close of 2019, the Blavatnik Awards will have conferred prizes totaling over $8.4 million to 285 outstanding young scientists and engineers from more than 44 countries, representing 35 scientific and engineering disciplines.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.