Fernanda Duarte recognised in annual Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists

Two Oxford researchers, including the Department of Chemistry's Professor Fernanda Duarte, have been named as Finalists in the 2024 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK. The prestigious awards celebrate the past accomplishments and future potential of the UK’s most innovative young scientists and engineers.

Every year, one Laureate and two Finalists are chosen in the three disciplinary categories of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences & Engineering, and Chemical Sciences. The 2024 Awards received 84 nominations from 40 academic and research institutions across the UK. This year, Associate Professors Fernanda Duarte and Jayne Birkby from the University of Oxford were selected as Finalists, and will each receive £30,000.

Professor Jim Naismith, Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division at Oxford University, said:

We are immensely proud of the ground-breaking achievements of Fernanda Duarte and Jayne Birkby, associate Professors in MPLS, who have been named as Finalists in the 2024 Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists. Their exceptional contributions to computational organic chemistry and exoplanetary science exemplify the spirit of innovation and dedication that defines our institution. We congratulate them on this well-deserved recognition and look forward to witnessing the continued impact of their pioneering research in the scientific community and beyond.

Professor Fernanda Duarte is an Associate Professor of Computational Organic Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry. Fernanda and her team are pioneering computational tools to simulate chemical reactions, optimise chemical synthesis, and guide molecular design. Employing a bottom-up approach, they efficiently leverage chemistry knowledge, molecular modelling, and advances in computer science to address pressing challenges. Through integrating a broad spectrum of computational and theoretical techniques, they have tackled scientific challenges at the intersection of different fields. These include elucidating complex reaction pathways, realistically modelling solvent effects, and identifying potential therapeutic agents for global health challenges. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they used these approaches to investigate the key interactions needed for the functioning of the main protein in SARS-CoV-2, that could inform inhibitory drugs.

This recognition celebrates the dedication, creativity, and collective efforts of the fantastic team I have had the privilege to lead. Many thanks to all of them, my mentors, parents, and husband.

Professor Fernanda Duarte, Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford.

The group have developed open-source platforms to streamline and automate reaction modelling tasks that have been traditionally computationally expensive and/or limited to experts. This work has attracted widespread interest from academia and industry, who are increasingly incorporating these methods to transform how chemical modelling is harnessed to predict new molecules and catalysts.

More information can be found on Fernanda's group website.

Full details about the 2024 recipients can be found on the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK website. The Awards are generously supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and independently administered by the New York Academy of Sciences

The 2024 Laureates and Finalists will be honoured at a black-tie gala dinner and award ceremony at Banqueting House in Whitehall, London, on 27 February 2024. The ceremony will be presented by Professor Irene Tracey, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford.

The following day, on 28 February 2024 from 11:00 to 17:00 GMT, the honourees will present their research with a series of short, interactive lectures at a free public symposium at the RSA House located at 8 John Adam St., London. To attend the symposium, click here to register.