Three on faculty honored by World Economic Forum

Assistant professors Ilana BritoMichael Niemack and Marcos Simoes-Costa are among 50 scientists under the age of 40 named Young Scientists 2018 by the World Economic Forum.

These scientists, according to the WEF, are honored for their contributions to advancing the frontiers of science, engineering and technology. They are selected from all regions of the world and from a wide range of disciplines.

Brito, assistant professor and Mong Family Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow in biomedical engineering, is developing technology that can track the movement of antibiotic resistance genes between bacteria to understand how our behaviors and health conditions affect the spread of antibiotic resistance. Her lab is also testing treatments that can be co-prescribed with antibiotics to thwart the spread of antibiotic resistance.

As DNA sequencing and genetic engineering capabilities become cheaper and easier to use, Brito aims to help ensure that the benefits of these technologies are shared by populations worldwide and that they are used prudently and effectively.

Niemack, assistant professor of physics, studies the birth and evolution of the cosmos by designing, building and observing with telescopes that measure the oldest light in the universe. This cosmic microwave background is a luminous artifact of the Big Bang that contains signatures from the very earliest times and is essential for understanding the dynamics of our evolving universe.

Niemack enjoys educating and inspiring nonscientists about cosmology. He is interested in both helping to increase diversity in physics and in learning more about modern industrial research as a means of fostering greater insights into our world and new economic opportunities.

Simoes-Costa, assistant professor of molecular biology and genetics and a Nancy and Peter Meinig Family Investigator in the Life Sciences, focuses ondecoding the molecular programs that control cell differentiation during embryonic development. To study this process, he investigates the genetic and molecular underpinnings of the formation and diversification of a stem-cell population called the neural crest that gives rise to diverse cell types such as nerve cells, bone and pigmented cells of the skin.

As a South American scientist, Simoes-Costa feels strongly about the need to promote diversity in academia – both to accelerate the democratization of knowledge and to enrich the scientific debate and promote creativity.

Brito, Niemack and Simoes-Costa will participate in the forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions, Sept. 18-20 in Tianjin, China. The event brings together more than 2,000 business and government leaders, as well as leaders from media, academia and civil society, to explore the influence of technological changes on global economic, political, societal and environmental challenges.

A version of this article appeared in the Cornell Chronicle

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