CSE professor named finalist for prestigious young scientist award

Blavatnik Awards are world’s largest unrestricted prize honoring early-career scientists and engineers

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (06/16/2021) — University of Minnesota Twin Cities Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Professor Paul Dauenhauer has been named a 2021 finalist for the prestigious Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists, the world’s largest unrestricted prize honoring early-career scientists and engineers.

Dauenhauer is one of only 31 finalists nationwide chosen for the prestigious award that showcases America’s most promising young scientists and engineers. Three winners of the awards—in life sciences, chemistry, and physical sciences and engineering—will be announced on July 20, each receiving $250,000 as a Blavatnik National Awards Laureate.

The finalists, culled from 298 nominations by 157 United States research institutions across 38 states, have made trailblazing discoveries in wide-ranging fields.

Dauenhauer is recognized for his pioneering ways to synthesize consumer chemicals from sustainable raw materials. Today, many commonplace materials like cleaning supplies or plastics are made from fossil fuels. Dauenhauer is seeking to replace fossil fuels with glucose, a simple sugar from plants.

Through this transformative line of research, Dauenhauer has achieved high-yield production of detergents, plastics, and synthetic rubber from glucose, all performing as well as conventionally sourced products. Beyond his green synthesis methods, Dauenhauer is also forging new paths in energy storage, developing a foundational catalyst theory to store energy in the form of ammonia.

“Each day, young scientists tirelessly seek solutions to humanity’s greatest challenges,“ said Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries, and head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation. “The Blavatnik Awards recognize this scientific brilliance and tenacity as we honor these 31 finalists. We congratulate them on their accomplishments and look forward to their continued, future discoveries and success.”

Three highly respected independent juries—each representing one of the awards' categories —will determine the winning Laureates, who must be faculty-level scientific researchers and engineers 42 years of age or younger.

The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists will celebrate the 2021 Blavatnik National Awards honorees in a ceremony on Sept. 28 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

To learn more more about all of the finalists, read the Blavatnik Foundation news release.