Five things to know about Hosea M. Nelson: Winner of the 2022 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists for Chemistry

They are among America’s most promising young scientists and engineers, ushering in the next era of ambitious discoveries.

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences recently announced a neurobiologist, a synthetic chemist and a mechanical engineer as the laureates of the 2022 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. Each was selected by independent juries across life sciences, chemistry, and physical sciences and engineering after a rigorous review process.

Hosea M. Nelson, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, the chemistry laureate, and the other winners were recognized for their significant contribution to science and the promotion of human health through their groundbreaking research.

“It is an honor to recognize these brilliant young scientists as they seek solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges,” said Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries, and head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation. “We congratulate them on their accomplishments and look forward to their future discoveries and success.”

Five things to know about Nelson:

  1. His disciplinary focus is analytical chemistry, in which he works to unlock unforeseen potential for organic chemists to design and synthesize new molecules. He popularized a technique called MiroED (microcrystal electron diffraction) that determines atomic positioning within small molecules with unprecedented accuracy. This technique has already accelerated the rate of drug development, paving the way for new discoveries when it comes to treatment of diseases.
  2. He had dreams of being an Olympic athlete, as a shot-putter, but injured both legs and was pushed into seeking a new career path. After getting a high school diploma and attending community college, he said he “went to do a summer internship in a microbial genetics lab and fell in love with doing research.”
  3. Before building chemical bonds, Nelson built houses. He went from working construction jobs to finding a passion for science. “One thing that governs how I do organic synthesis is [the old adage] ‘measure twice, cut once.’ I try to measure twice in a chemical sense before we do anything that is not fixable.”
  4. Nelson wants to leverage his work to advance racial equity, inclusion and justice in STEM and related fields. “As a Black person, I have yet to find a way to avoid racial issues in science, so my group lives it through me in many ways,” Nelson said.
  5. In his free time, he loves spending time outdoors. He enjoys road-tripping adventures for fishing and recently visited Ernest Hemingway’s favorite fly-fishing location—Silver Creek, Idaho.

The other 2022 laureates are Elaine Y. Hsaio, Ph.D., the University of California, Los Angeles, and Conor Walsh, Ph.D., a biomedical and mechanical engineer from Harvard University.

Each Blavatnik laureate receives $250,000, the largest unrestricted scientific award in the U.S. for young, faculty-ranked scientists and engineers.