Introducing the 2017 Vilcek Prizewinners

The Vilcek Foundation is pleased to introduce the winners of the 2017 Vilcek Prizes for Fine Arts and Biomedical Science, awarded annually in recognition of outstanding immigrant contributions to American society.  Like all great artists and scientists, the winners of the Vilcek Prizes continually challenge and expand our worldviews, from our understanding of how the physical brain gives way to the mind, to the individual’s experience of democracy.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be introducing each prizewinner and their work in feature stories and videos; for now, please meet the 2017 Vilcek Prizewinners!

 

VILCEK PRIZE IN BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE

Lily and Yuh-Nung Jan

(respectively)

Jack and DeLoris Lange Professor of Molecular Physiology, University of California, San Francisco

Jack and DeLoris Lange Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco

Born in China

For identifying genes and principles underlying the development and wiring of the nervous system, and for uncovering the genetic underpinnings of the mechanism by which cells shuttle ions, a crucial process for a variety of body functions.

 

VILCEK PRIZE IN FINE ARTS

Nari Ward

Visual Artist

Born in Jamaica

For a body of found-object assemblage artwork that invites both a public discourse and an intimate dialogue with viewers on topics such as race, poverty, immigration, and the Caribbean diaspora identity. 

 

VILCEK PRIZE FOR CREATIVE PROMISE IN BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE

Michaela Gack

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Chicago

Born in Germany

For uncovering molecular mechanisms by which the human immune system triggers antiviral defenses, and for identifying potential vaccine and drug targets for emerging infectious diseases.

 

Michael Halassa

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, New York University

Born in Jordan

For identifying circuits in the thalamus that act as tunable filters, enabling the brain to suppress sensory noise during selective attention, as well as identifying a form of autism in which this filtering process is deficient.  

 

Ahmet Yildiz

Associate Professor of Physics and Molecular Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Born in Turkey

For developing biological imaging methods that allowed for the visualization of molecules at a then-unprecedented scale, and employing those methods to unravel the mechanism of action of molecular motors within cells.

 

VILCEK PRIZE FOR CREATIVE PROMISE IN FINE ARTS

Iman Issa

Visual Artist

Born in Egypt

For exploring, through works of various media, difficult philosophical questions, such as the individual’s relationship to places, figures, and events that are collectively familiar, or the difference between experience and recognition. 

 

Meleko Mokgosi

Visual Artist

Born in Botswana

For paintings that rely on intensive research, reflection, and conversation in order to address widespread misrepresentation of Africa and Africans, and to accurately portray the continent’s complex social and political realities. 

 

Carlos Motta

Visual Artist

Born in Colombia

For his engagement, through performance, film, and other media, with the question of representation and democracy, the emotional underpinnings of political awareness, and the tension between dominant accounts of history and marginalized communities.

  • A Message from Jan and Marica Vilcek

    Our founders arrived as penniless refugees over fifty years ago, but with the kindness and opportunity they received in the United States, they went on to accomplish great things in biomedical science and art history. Read their statement on the recent executive order imposing a travel ban.

     

    READ THEIR MESSAGE >