Vilcek Foundation Honors Immigrants for Achievements in Biomedical Science and Culinary Arts

Several immigrants have just been recognized for their contributions to science and the culinary world by a distinguished nonprofit organization. Earlier this month, the New York City based Vilcek Foundation, which was established in 2000 by Czech immigrant couple Jan and Marica Vilcek, awarded its 2019 Vilcek Foundation prizes for biomedical science and culinary arts. While the prize in biomedical science is awarded annually, the recognition for excellence in culinary arts was this year’s selection for the foundation’s rotating arts and humanities category. The Vilcek Foundation and its awards were created to recognize the diverse contributions that immigrants have made to the United States, as well as to encourage an appreciation of the arts and sciences.

This year’s recipients of the 2019 Vilcek Foundation Prizes for Biomedical Science are Austrian-born molecular and cell biologist, Angelika Amon, Indian immigrant and Harvard assistant professor of medicine, Amit Choudhary, Georgian native and Gladstone Institute assistant investigator Jeanne Paz, and Russian-born, Mikhail Shapiro, who is a professor of chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

Amon, who took the top prize, is on the cutting edge of research into errors that occur during cell growth and division that can contribute to cancer and birth defects. Choudhary’s research into biomolecules has applications ranging from drug delivery systems to exploring the very origin of life. Paz is exploring the brain mechanisms that cause epileptic seizures, while Shapiro developed a novel form of imaging tools for biological functions.

The award winners all received cash prizes ranging from $50,000 to $100,000. At the awards presentation ceremony on February 7, 2019, Jan Vilcek, chairman and CEO of the Vilcek Foundation, noted that “immigrant scientists are behind some of the most transformative discoveries made on American soil … their work has extraordinary implications for our understanding of human biology and our prospects for treating disease.” [See Immigrant Scientists Lead Charge in Understanding Human Biology and Disease, by staff writer, BioSpace, 07.Feb.2019.]

The 2019 Vilcek Foundation prize for Culinary Arts was awarded to an extraordinary group of chefs who were selected by a panel of experts in the culinary field. The recipients, who will also receive awards ranging from $50,000-$100,000, include Ethiopian-born and Swedish-raised restauranteur, Marcus Samuelsson; Mexican native, Fabian von Hauske Valtierra, who is the co-chef and co-owner of several popular New York City eateries; New York Times restaurant critic Tejal Rao, who was born in the U.K. to Kenyan and Indian parents; and Cambodian native Nite Yun, who founded Nyum Bai, a groundbreaking restaurant in Oakland, CA, focused on traditional Cambodian cuisine. At the awards presentation ceremony on February 4th, Vilcek Foundation co-founder, Marica Vilcek, lauded the vast contributions that immigrants have made to the U.S. culinary landscape, noting that “… immigrants make enormous contributions to the United States, and this year we are spotlighting their contributions to American culinary arts. They bring their talents to the most renowned kitchens across the country, bringing the technical excellence and worldly perspective that has made American restaurants among the best in the world.” [See also Foundation Honors Immigrants in Culinary Arts with $250,000 in Prizes, Press Release, Vilcek Foundation, New York, NY, 04.Feb.2019.]


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