Chinese-born scientists win coveted award

By Paul Welitzkin in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-07-04 09:51

Two US scientists who were born in China have won a coveted award and $250,000 for their work in developing a gene-editing system and the use of nanomaterials in environmental protection.

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences announced on June 27 that Feng Zhang of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Yi Cui of Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were the 2017 Laureates of the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists.

Chinese-born scientists win coveted award

Melanie Sanford, a professor at the University of Michigan, also was honored for her work in developing simpler chemical approaches with less environmental impact to the synthesis of molecules.

Zhang was born in Shijiazhuang in Hebei province and moved to Des Moines, Iowa with his family when he was a young child. "I grew up in the US and was educated here," he said in an interview.

Zhang said his research involves making precise changes to DNA. "Our cells have DNA called genomes that contain proteins that may have a mutation. If we can correct the mutation, we can fight diseases like sickle cell," he said.

Zhang intends to use his financial award to support science and education.

Cui was born in Laibin in Guangxi province, and after obtaining a bachelor's degree from the University of Science and Technology of China, came to the US in 1998 for graduate level studies.

After joining Stanford in 2005, Cui decided to use what he learned about nanotechnology, which is science, engineering and technology conducted at the nanoscale (about 1 to 100 nanometers). According to the National Nanotechnology Initiative, one nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. A human hair is approximately 80,000-100,000 nanometers wide.

Cui's goal is to generate leading-edge technologies for sustainable energy and environmental protection.

Cui said he has not had time to think about what he will do with the financial award. "But I am sure that it will help me to focus on what I do," he wrote in an email.

The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of many leading educational, scientific, cultural and charitable institutions in the US and throughout the world. The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that has been advancing scientific research, education and policy since 1817.

(China Daily USA 07/04/2017 page2)

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