To understand the origins of the solar system is to understand the building blocks of life.
Reuters/ Martha Chahary
From addressing the current plastic pollution crisis to preventing the next Ebola outbreak, scientists are at the forefront of key discoveries and technologies with the potential to completely change how we address our global challenges.
But scientists across the globe are not just answering fundamental questions with the prospect of creating new inventions or innovations. They are leaders with the power to shape young students, our future leaders, to affect positive change in society. They have the power to shape young minds to realize their potential and the power within themselves to reshape their future.
Here are 10 of the most exciting young scientific leaders in the world today. They’re just a small sample of the 45 Young Scientists who will convene in Dalian at the Annual Meeting of New Champions this year, under the theme of Leadership 4.0: Succeeding in a New Era of Globalization. Collectively they contribute to humanity’s progress through science leadership and pushing the frontiers of human knowledge
To understand the origins of the solar system is to understand the building blocks of life: when we know how forces work we may be able to manipulate them. Knowing how the Earth formed is crucial to understanding our shared future. Ashley’s research seeks to answer society’s big questions, including the origins and future of the Earth and life on it and the impacts of a changing environment. He is also working with secondary schools in the UK to launch a network of meteor detector cameras to give students hands-on research experience as well as build more comprehensive data for scientists.
Benjamin C.K. Tee
What if your prosthetic limb enabled you to feel, if it was life-like and even self-healing? Benjamin designs artificial skin sensor systems with self-repairable and degradable properties, with applications from biomedical robotics to electronic waste reduction. His research could benefit millions; in the US alone there are 2.1 million people living with limb loss. Benjamin is also passionate about engaging and exposing young people to STEM, and actively coaches and mentors student teams.
Denise Morais da Fonseca
We are all prone to infections but, if your immune system is weak, you are more susceptible to long-term consequences. For populations with poor nutrition and sanitary conditions, acute infections can delay cognitive and growth development and even make them unable to respond to oral vaccines. Denise aims to understand how the immune system recovers from infections and the long-term effects on the body to prevent them, particularly in low to middle-income countries. She is also passionate about promoting female scientists to leadership roles; and devising strategies to educate the public about basic healthcare, such as hygiene, to prevent severe infections.
Gaëlle Offranc Piret
One billion people experience some form of disability, making them more susceptible to adverse socioeconomic outcomes: such as less education, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates. These can become more acute for people who live with some form of paralysis. Gaëlle is developing flexible, thin and nano-structured brain implants for therapeutic applications that could restore function for disabled people. She also promotes science to youth by teaching courses to primary schools and speaks publicly about the science behind neuro-technology research.
What if we were able to control our eating behaviour or regulate anxiety? Sung-Yon studies precisely how neural circuits interconnect and signal to each other to control basic emotional and need states, such as appetite and anxiety. This could benefit the over 650 million people struggling with obesity and 300 million people with anxiety. He also actively participates in public talks with children and students and in public policymaking forums offered by government agencies to support the public understanding of the latest advancements in science and technology.
With 1 billion people without access to electricity and more than 50% living in cities, efficient and affordable access to energy is essential. Nripan is designing cheap and efficient solar cells that can be easily printed and are accessible to a wide range of communities. The fact that they are printed makes them ideal for building integrated photovoltaics, bringing down building costs and increasing the area available for local power generation. He also leads a research group and is passionate about training and guiding young students to affect positive change through their research.
What if you were innocent but went to prison just because your DNA was found on incriminating evidence? A 7-year UK study analysing 996 cases that involved criminal evidence found that 22% were successful on appeal to misleading evidence in the original trial. Ruth researches the interpretation of forensic science evidence and intelligence, to answer questions of how and when, not just what and who. This helps us understand decision-making in crime investigation and detection, so that we can avoid unsafe rulings due to misinterpreted expert evidence. Ruth feels a strong responsibility to engage beyond the scientific community, and acted as the Specialist Adviser to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Inquiry into Forensic Science for the UK Government.
There are hundreds of diseases that spread from animals to humans and vice versa. Among them are the Spanish 1918 pandemic that killed 50 million people, and Ebola and HIV, which continue to affect us today. As a biological anthropologist, Sabrina uses museum collections of biological remains to study environmental factors on animal health in the past and present. She recently curated the “Outbreak” exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to inform the public of how infectious diseases, such as Ebola, (re)emerge and spread and launched a free, translatable and customizable toolkit of the exhibit content for public health education use.
In a time of big data, the amount of information we need to store and process more quickly is growing. Quantum computing has the potential to solve complex problems that go beyond what classical computers can do today. Yihua is researching how the quantum physical properties of materials can be harnessed for the next generation of computing. He opens his lab to curious visitors from the public and has plans to make it more accessible to kids.
Stress affects everyone but different types can increase the risk of mental health conditions and other illnesses. Being able to understand how our body responds to stress and how it can adapt to challenging environments to maintain a healthy balance is key to treating it. This is at the heart of what Ying studies – decoding how cells respond to stress and nutrient levels, with therapeutic potential for the treatment of related diseases, such as cancer. Through outreach activities and participating in TV shows, Ying hopes to broaden the appeal of STEM subjects among children, and support women’s career development in STEM.