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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Peter Walter

German-born Peter Walter is interested in how things work. This has long been the focus of his research at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, where he is a professor in the departments of biochemistry and biophysics, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Tuyen Tran

Unlike many aspiring designers, Vietnamese-born Tuyen Tran was first drawn to fashion through her interest in the complex, technical processes that go into the construction of garments. She enrolled in a fashion design course offered by the theater department of her high school in Twin Falls, Idaho, but found that it was “not accurate,” she says. “You would learn to use a hot glue gun here, a staple there.”

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Rob Knight

According to New Zealand-born Rob Knight, scientific endeavors in his native country tend to gravitate toward applied research, especially around agriculturally important issues. “I think that’s possibly what led me to be more open to the idea of applied topics,” he says.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Natallia Pilipenka

Designer Natallia Pilipenka was born in Ukraine and raised in Belarus before she moved to New York in her twenties. She does not, however, feel particularly Ukrainian, Belarusian, or American; rather, she sees herself as a combination of all her experiences.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Sun Hur

South Korean-born Sun Hur has been on a lifelong quest to apply theory to reality, order to chaos. It is a quest that has brought her from painting to physics, physics to computational chemistry, and from there, to structural biology, biochemistry, and finally, immunology.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Siki Im

Designer Siki Im believes he is who he is today because of his parents. His parents emigrated from South Korea to Germany on work visas; his father was a chemist, and his mother was a nurse. And although they did not work in the arts, “they didn’t say no,” Siki says. “They let me try things out. I think that was the biggest blessing.”

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Franziska Michor

When the stakes are life and death, as they so often are with cancer, one would hope for a rigorous analysis of all available options. Until recently, this was not the case with the disease. That’s where Austrian-born Franziska Michor comes in. Franziska is a professor of computational biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard School of Public Health.

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From New York to New Mexico: Masterworks of American Modernism from the Vilcek Foundation Collection to open at Philbrook Museum of Art

A selection of 65 works from the Vilcek Collection are going on a three-stop cross-country tour. From New York to New Mexico: Masterworks of American Modernism from the Vilcek Foundation Collection will open on February 8, 2015, at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Andrew Bolton

To hear his praises sung is to believe that Andrew Bolton elevated fashion from a commercial enterprise to an integral field of the arts; they are not without merit. Prior to assuming the role of curator at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2006, there were murmured doubts about the legitimacy of fashion as an art form amongst critics and curators. Thanks to Andrew’s academic rigor and anthropological curiosity, the Costume Institute is now one of the most popular and well-respected departments at the museum.

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Announcing the 2015 Vilcek Prizewinners

It’s awards season again! While Los Angeles is gearing up for the Oscars and the Grammys, we’re pleased to present the 9th annual Vilcek Prizes, honoring notable immigrants in the arts and sciences.

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Grantee Spotlight: New York Youth Symphony

Now in its 52nd season, the New York Youth Symphony (NYYS) has been providing music education and performance opportunities to teenage and college-aged students in the tristate area for over 50 years.

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Rick Kinsel becomes a Visual Arts Curator

Executive Director Rick Kinsel is honored to serve as a visual arts curator for Pen and Brush, supporting the launch of the 120 year-old organization’s new programming.

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Antoine de Cazotte: NAF Featured Filmmaker

Antoine de Cazotte credits his success as a filmmaker to moving from his native Paris to America. “Coming to America was the smartest thing I’ve done in my life,” says Antoine. “You have to be in movement; if you’re still, nothing is going to happen.”

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Ana Lily Amirpour: A Girl Who Walks on Her Own

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has been hailed as the “first feminist Iranian vampire Western film in history”, and it shows. The debut feature film of Ana Lily Amirpour, born in the UK to Iranian parents, is set in the fictional Bad City.

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Farzad Sangari: 10 points to Mudbloods

Quidditch may have originated from the fictional world of Harry Potter, but as a collegiate sport, it’s as real as it gets. Iranian-born Farzad Sangari’s documentary, Mudbloods, takes us into the world of muggle Quidditch as it follows the UCLA Bruins team to the 5th Annual World Cup in New York.

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New American Filmmakers in the Classroom

The New American Filmmakers program was pleased to bring delegates into local Hawaiian classrooms as a part of the Hawaii International Film Festival’s Guest Filmmaker Program.

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Minh Nguyen-Vo: A Return to Cinema

Growing up in South Vietnam, Minh Nguyễn-Võ was captivated by cinema from an early age. Minh followed other scientific endeavors to France and later the United States, becoming an accomplished physicist working in research and development.

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Ken Ochiai: Taking Up the Sword

Uzumasa Limelight is a work of love. The second feature film of Japanese-born Ken Ochiai, it focuses on the lives of kirare yaku, screen extras from the golden age of samurai epics who specialize in portraying theatrical deaths.

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Ayako Fujitani: International Woman of Mystery

In her latest film, Man from Reno, the multilingual and multitalented actress Ayako Fujitani plays a writer who suddenly leaves Japan for San Francisco in the midst of a publicity tour. Perhaps she was drawing upon her own teenaged years.

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A Sneak Peek at the 2014 New American Filmmakers

Aloha! The Hawaii International Film Festival is just around the corner, marking the eighth year that the Vilcek Foundation has partnered with the festival to present the New Americans Filmmakers (NAF) program.

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Iranian-born Pardis Sabeti leads the race against Ebola

Long before the first case of Ebola was confirmed in the current outbreak, biologist Pardis Sabeti and her colleagues suspected that infectious diseases were already circulating, undetected. Pardis, an associate professor at Harvard University and winner of the 2014 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise, had been working closely with the Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) in Sierra Leone to track and study another deadly hemorrhagic disease, Lassa fever, and Pardis was acutely aware of how difficult it would be to establish biologically secure environments to treat and control outbreaks of infectious diseases.

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I Learn America: Film Screenings and Community Conversations in Three Cities

"I Learn America: One High School, One School Year, Five New Americans," is a documentary that follows five immigrant teenagers over the course of one year as they strive to master English, adapt to families they haven’t seen in years, confront universal trials of adolescence, and search for a future they can claim as their own. French-born director Jean-Michel Dissard has ignited a national dialogue on immigration from New York to Honolulu through the film.

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Congrats to the 2014 Blavatnik Awardees!

In further evidence of immigrant successes in the STEM fields, foreign-born scientists accounted for a large percentage of the recently announced Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists.

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The Grand Design

On June 19, the Vilcek Foundation was pleased to partner with the Museum of Arts and Design to present “The Grand Design.” Hosted in The Theater at MAD, three winners of the 2014 Vilcek Prizes for Design — Neri Oxman, Mansour Ourasanah, and Quilian Riano — presented their works in a panel moderated by Glenn Adamson, Nanette L. Laitman Director at MAD.

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A Look at the 2015 Creative Promise Prize Applicants

The seventh annual call for Creative Promise Prize applications was open to professionals in the fields of biomedical science, and for the first time in arts — fashion. Two-hundred and fifty four scientists and fashion professionals answered the call, representing diverse fields in each respective industry and hailing from eighty different countries.

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Immigrants Win Big: Announcing the 2014 Simons Foundation Investigators and Fields Medalists

It’s been a tremendous couple of weeks for immigrants in the math and sciences! First, the 2014 Simons Foundation Investigators were announced on August 13. Of the 16 scientists and mathematicians selected for the prestigious five-year awards, 15 are based in the United States, and 12 are immigrants—that’s a whopping 75% of this year’s awardees!

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Marsden Hartley goes West!

The exhibition Marsden Hartley: The German Paintings 1913–1915, which opened in April at the Neue Nationalegalerie in Berlin, is now on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art! The show marks the California debut of “Portrait Arrangement No. 2,” 1912–13, and “Berlin Series No. 1,” 1913, from the Vilcek Collection.

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Grantee Spotlight: Lutheran Social Services of New York

For almost twenty years, the Immigration Legal Services Program of Lutheran Social Services of New York (LSSNY-ILP) has been providing professional legal services to thousands of clients across the five boroughs of New York City, regardless of religious affiliation. The program offers free or low-cost legal immigration services to clients from over one hundred countries, as well as connecting clients to services that help them become self-sufficient in their new communities.

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Vilcek Foundation Collections Expand with Pre-Columbian Artworks

Last spring, we launched an exciting new initiative by publishing three online art collections on Now we are proud to announce a new addition to the collections! The Vilcek Foundation Pre-Columbian Collection illustrates the wide range of artistic and cultural legacies that arose across the pre-Columbian world.

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Jan Vilcek, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa

Yesterday, the Graduate Center, City University of New York bestowed the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, on Jan Vilcek, president and co-founder of the Vilcek Foundation. Jan was recognized in his capacity as a biomedical scientist, educator, inventor, and philanthropist.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Pardis Sabeti

Many children bristle at excessive instruction from older siblings, but growing up, Iranian-born Pardis Sabeti delighted in it. “As immigrants, my family and I weren’t very aware of the many educational and extracurricular opportunities in the U.S.,” Pardis says. “Instead, my parents improvised.” Pardis’ mother purchased a chalkboard and textbooks for her older sister Parisa to conduct an informal schoolhouse during the summer, and the result was a lifelong love of learning, especially in mathematics.

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Marsden Hartley hits the road!

In March, two Marsden Hartley paintings in the Vilcek Foundation’s American Modernist Collection earned quite a few frequent-flier miles, traveling from New York to Berlin for the exhibition Marsden Hartley: The German Paintings 1913–1915, at the Neue Nationalgalerie.

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Vilcek Prizewinner Spotlight: Stavros Lomvardas

It was only recently that Stavros Lomvardas’ family accepted the fact that he was not going to be a dentist; the realization came when Stavros called his father in Greece with the news that he had been selected as a winner of the 2014 Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science. “He said, ‘Well, I guess you’re not becoming a dentist after all,’” Stavros remembers.

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  • 2015 Vilcek Prizes

    The recipients of the 2015 Vilcek Prizes have been announced!


    Visit our Prizes section to read about the distinguished professionals in biomedical science and fashion.