Indian American Shruti Naik wins prestigious Blavatnik Young Scientists award

Shruti Naik
Shruti Naik, photo credit: Blavatnik Family Foundation and New York Academy of Sciences

Another Indian American, Priyanka Sharma, receives honorable mention in “Chemistry.”

Indian American Shruti Naik, an assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine, has won the prestigious Blavatnik Regional Awards for Young Scientists in the “Life Sciences” category.

Another Indian American researcher, Priyanka Sharma, a postdoctoral researcher at Stony Brook University, received honorable mention in the “Chemistry” category.

Instituted by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences, the awards support outstanding postdoctoral researchers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

READ: IIT Delhi alum Syed Ali Jafar wins $250,000 2015 Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists (July 22, 2015)

In all, three biomedical researchers in life sciences, physical sciences and engineering, and chemistry won the awards this year, and six others received honor mentions.

The Foundation and the Academy said in a press release that 125 nominated researchers competed for the nine spots.

The winners and finalists will be honored at the New York Academy of Sciences’ annual gala in New York on November 5, 2018.

Naik, who was nominated while she was doing a postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University, is being recognized for “demonstrating that skin stem cells retain a ‘memory’ of previous inflammatory experiences, allowing for a more robust and rapid response to subsequent injury,” the release said.

Priyanka Sharma
Priyanka Sharma; photo credit: Blavatnik Family Foundation and New York Academy of Sciences

“Dr. Naik’s groundbreaking work uncovered a new property of skin stem cells that explains how our largest and most vulnerable organ — the skin — responds to and remembers injuries and inflammatory stimuli such as injury or exposure to skin irritants. The skin is the body’s primary barrier to the outside world and it is critical to our survival that it remains intact.”

Her discovery that skin stem cells “can be sensitized to inflammation may aid the development of better treatment strategies for a variety of skin conditions,” it added.

Naik earned her bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Maryland College Park, and graduate and doctoral degrees from University of Pennsylvania.

Besides Naik, two other winners are Lingyan Shi, in “Physical Sciences and Engineering” and Lu Wei in “Chemistry.”

This was the first time all the three first place winners are women.

Sharma, a polymer chemist, is being honored for “her pioneering work on the low-cost conversion of untreated biomass to carboxycellulose nanofibers, which have applications in biomedicine and in water purification in developing nations,” the release added.

“These outstanding, early-career scientists are highly innovative and inspirational,” said Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries and the Blavatnik Family Foundation, and member of the President’s Council of the New York Academy of Sciences. “We are proud of their contributions to science and excited to observe how their current and future discoveries will make the world a better place.”

Ellis Rubinstein, president and CEO of the Academy and chair of the Awards’ Scientific Advisory Council, said: “The New York Metropolitan area’s scientific eco-system is a melting pot of scientific ideas and research disciplines. This year’s winners and finalists have taken risks, stepped ‘outside of the box’ of their traditional fields, and drawn from methods and applications beyond their strict disciplines, forging new ideas in the process. Their research and dedication is promising for the future of our world.”

The Blavatnik Family Foundation, founded by industrialist and philanthropist Len Blavatnik, supports educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States and other parts of the world.

The New York Academy of Sciences, a 200-year-old nonprofit, advances scientific research, education, and policy.

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