The Vilcek Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2020 Vilcek Foundation Prizes. Awarded annually, the Vilcek Prizes and Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise honor the outstanding contributions of immigrants in the sciences and the arts. The work of the prizewinners supports a greater understanding of our world and offers opportunities for further discovery and exploration. The Vilcek Prize for Excellence—introduced in 2019—is awarded to immigrants who have had a significant impact on culture and society, or to individuals who are dedicated champions of immigrant causes in the United States.
This year’s prizewinners have profoundly enriched scientific discovery, the arts, and culture in the United States through their accomplishments. They have developed tools to explore the metabolism of cancer cells and to visualize genomes at the molecular level; they have written novels, poems, and essays that explore the human condition and the complexities of diasporic identity; and they have established institutions fostering justice for immigrants.
All of the prizewinners will be celebrated and presented with their awards at the Vilcek Foundation Prizes Gala in New York in April 2020.
Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science
David B. Arnold Jr. Professor of Science, Harvard University; Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
Born in China
For developing super-resolution microscopy and genome-scale imaging to directly visualize the structures, activities, and expression profiles of life-sustaining molecules in cells.
Vilcek Prize in Literature
Author and activist
Born in Haiti
For dazzling prose and profound understanding of our shared human condition embodied through her genre-spanning work that explores the Haitian diaspora and other personal narratives.
Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science
Chapman Perelman Assistant Professor, The Rockefeller University
Born in Turkey
For developing cutting-edge tools to unravel the altered metabolism of cancer cells and uncovering molecular targets for treatment.
Professor of neuroscience and biological engineering; Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator; director, Center for Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, California Institute of Technology
Born in Romania
For developing next-generation tools in optogenetics, tissue clearing, and gene delivery, with potential therapeutic applications in human diseases.
Assistant professor of molecular biology, Princeton University
Born in France to parents of Polish origin
For molecular studies on Chlamydomonas, a model photosynthetic organism, with long-term implications for improving food-crop yield and combating climate change.
Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature
Born in Ghana
For deeply engaging writing that unites the twin arcs of West African and African American history, and for her relentless examination of injustices of the past and present in Homegoing (2016).
Author and Sadie Samuelson Levy Professor in Languages and Literature, Bard College
Born in Mexico
For intelligent, distinctive fiction and nonfiction that interrogates the United States’ immigration system, and bears witness to those left voiceless by mass deportation.
Poet and lecturer
Born in China
For the construction of a unique poetic voice that—in its play and invention—examines the essence of perspective and selfhood through an evocative lens in Eye Level (2018).
Vilcek Prize for Excellence in the Administration of Justice
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Born in the United States
For his exemplary career in public service and his dedication to broadening access to legal representation for immigrants in need.