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Stony Brook Pioneers Compete for 2019 Discovery Prize


In a high-stakes competition to be held April 23, one of four young scholars will receive the 2019 Discovery Prize, a $200,000 award given to a Stony Brook University faculty member in the STEM disciplines whose research project embraces risk and innovation and embodies the potential of discovery-driven research.

“Our nation’s vitality and competitiveness depend on the many discoveries made at research universities,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, President of Stony Brook University. “It is critical that we continue to support fundamental, curiosity-driven research and encourage our ambitious early-career faculty to pursue audacious ideas with the potential to transform lives and our understanding of the world around us.”

The Discovery Prize was established in 2013 with a generous donation from the Stony Brook Foundation’s Board of Trustees as a way to advance pioneering scientific breakthroughs at a time when the primary source of support for basic research (i.e., the federal government) is dwindling.

The Prize is envisioned as a pathway to capitalize on new technologies, new innovations, new ideas and the urgency to move discovery-driven knowledge forward by investing private dollars in basic research that is free of commercial or political pressures. The Discovery Prize is also a means to advance the career of a rising star on the Stony Brook faculty whose ideas may be so revolutionary and so contrary to convention that funding agencies would be unlikely to provide support.

In its inaugural year, the Discovery Prize was conferred on Dr. Laurie T. Krug  – one of four outstanding finalists – for her dynamic proposal researching herpes viruses that are associated with cancer. In 2017, the second Discovery Prize was awarded to Dr. Thomas Allison, whose exciting proposal focused on new techniques for examining the movement of electrons in molecules.

In 2019, this $200,000 prize, free of indirect costs, will be awarded to a scholar in the STEM disciplines whose research project embraces risk and innovation, the catalysts for scientific advances.   

This year’s competitors represent an exciting mix of disciplines and ideas:

Melanie Chiu, PhD
Department of Chemistry
“Self-reproducing Nanocapsules”

Dr. Chiu is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University. Her research group investigates the development of methods for synthesizing sequence-defined polymers, utilizing a combination of organic, polymer, and supramolecular chemistries to construct materials with well-defined micro- and macroscopic structures for applications in biomedicine, energy storage and organic electronics.

She holds an AB from Dartmouth and a PhD from UC Berkeley, and has been a postodoctoral researcher at ETH Zurich and Stanford.

Sandeep Mallipattu, MD
School of Medicine, Division of Nephrology and Hypertension
“Combinatorial Approach to Building a Kidney”

Dr. Mallipattu is DCI-Liebowitz Associate Professor of Medicine and Chief of Nephrology at Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine.

His research program focuses on identifying mechanisms involved in the progression of chronic kidney disease; specifically, investigating the mechanisms that regulate proliferation and differentiation of epithelial cells in the kidney.

He holds a BS from UC San Diego and an MD from Boston University School of Medicine.


Ming-Yu Ngai, PhD
Department of Chemistry
“Using Sunlight to Convert Greenhouse Gas into Valuable Chemicals”

Dr. Ngai is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University. His research focuses on developing novel and practical synthetic methodologies to address unmet challenges in organic synthesis and medicinal chemistry, while identifying and developing new radiotracers for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging to elucidate disease mechanisms, identify drug targets, assess treatment efficacy, and accelerate drug discovery and development.

He holds a BS from University of Hong Kong/UC San Diego and a PhD from UT Austin. He has done postdoctoral research at Stanford and Harvard Universities.


Il Memming Park, PhD
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior
“Personalized Landscape of Unconsciousness”

Dr. Park is assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the Renaissance School of Medicine and the College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University. He is a computational neuroscientist trained in statistical signal processing and machine learning. with a research interest in point process-based analysis of spike trains from sensory, motor, as well as decision and learning process.

He holds a  B.S. in computer science from KAIST and a PhD from University of Florida. He was a postdoctoral fellow (2010-2014) at the University of Texas at Austin working with Jonathan Pillow, before he joined the faculty of neurobiology and behavior at Stony Brook University in 2015.

The Discovery Prize Competition will be held on Tuesday, April 23, at 2:30 pm in the Charles B. Wang Center Theatre. The program includes finalists’ presentations followed by a reception and announcement of the winner. To attend, register here.





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