Two Rockefeller postdocs win Blavatnik Awards

Two Rockefeller University postdoctoral fellows have been named winners in the 2012 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists competition from The New York Academy of Sciences. Andrey Feklistov, from Seth Darst’s Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics, and Nicholas Stavropoulos, from Michael Young’s Laboratory of Genetics, are among 9 winners and 2 finalists.

The awards are given to researchers under the age of 42 who demonstrate highly innovative, impactful and interdisciplinary accomplishments in the life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics and engineering.

Feklistov and Stavropoulos will each receive $15,000 in unrestricted funds from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and will be honored at the New York Academy of Sciences’ Ninth annual Science & the City Gala in November.

Feklistov is being recognized for his work resolving a fundamental transcription mechanism also important for drug design. He received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from Moscow State University in 2005 and joined Darst’s lab in 2006 to study structural biology of bacterial transcription. His research focuses on the molecular basis of promoter recognition and opening by bacterial RNA-polymerase. Feklistov is also a recipient of Rockefeller’s Merck Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Stavropoulos is being honored for his research on the function and regulation of sleep. He received his Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard University in 2003 and continued postdoctoral work there before joining Young’s laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow in 2005. His research uses the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to study the genes and molecular pathways that regulate sleep. Stavropoulos has also received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award.

“The Blavatnik Awards are an important distinction for an early-career scientist, and I’m proud that Rockefeller has not one but two postdoctoral researchers being recognized this year,” says Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Rockefeller’s president. “The awards recognize the innovation and ingenuity in Andrey and Nicholas’ work. I’m sure we will continue to see many accomplishments from both of them as their careers progress.”

The Blavatnik award program is distinct in its effort to compare applicants across all scientific and technological disciplines. This year’s winners were selected from more than 170 nominations of investigators working New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. During the final round of evaluations, judges were deadlocked in their decisions regarding many top applications. Due to this unprecedented situation, the New York Academy of Sciences decided to name the greatest number of winners thus far, a testament to the quality of research being conducted in the New York tri-state area.

Past recipients from Rockefeller University include associate professor Shai Shaham and postdoc Sreekanth H. Chalasani in 2009, Richard E. Salomon Family Professor Tom W. Muir in 2008 and Chemers Family Associate Professor Leslie B. Vosshall in 2007. Past finalists from Rockefeller have included three postdocs in 2008: Valerie Horsley, Andreas Keller and Matthew Evans; and Tarun Kapoor, head of the Laboratory of Chemistry and Cell Biology, in 2007.

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