NOMIS Award presented to four pioneering scientists

November 8, 2021

Recognizing their outstanding contributions to the advancement of science and human progress through their pioneering, collaborative research, the 2021 as well as the 2020 NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award was presented to Catherine Dulac, Robert Ewers, Ronald M. Evans and Anthony Hyman at a ceremony at the Kongresshaus in Zurich, Switzerland, on Oct. 7, 2021.

2021 NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award ceremony. Pictured (l-r) are NOMIS Managing Director Markus Reinhard and NOMIS Awardees Anthony Hyman, Ronald M. Evans, Catherine Dulac, Robert Ewers.

Established in 2016, the NOMIS Award is presented to pioneering scientists and scholars who, through their innovative, groundbreaking research, have made a significant contribution to their respective fields and who inspire the world around them. Their bold ideas and unique approaches involve interdisciplinary collaboration and apply a broad range of methods, building bridges across the boundaries of disciplines. NOMIS Awards enable these exceptional, established scientists to continue exploring unconventional and uncharted research paths, thereby opening up new research fields and collaborations.

2021 NOMIS Distinguished Scientists

Receiving the 2021 NOMIS Award were Catherine Dulac and Robert (Rob) Ewers.

Catherine Dulac

Dulac is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Higgins Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Lee and Ezpeleta Professor of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in Cambridge, US. The NOMIS Award is supporting Dulac’s investigation of how the fundamental need for social interaction is generated and regulated by specific brain activity. Using cutting-edge genetics, transcriptomics, physiology and imaging approaches, she aims to uncover the neural basis underlying the instinctive drive for animals to interact with each other.

Robert Ewers

Ewers is professor of ecology at Imperial College London, UK. The NOMIS Award is enabling Ewers to create a computer simulation of one of the world’s most complex ecosystems: a tropical rainforest. By conducting virtual experiments inside the virtual rainforest to address ecological questions that cannot be addressed through empirical observations, Ewers’ research will advance our understanding of how rainforest systems perpetuate themselves and gain insight into their ability to resist the ever-increasing pressures that people place upon these ecosystems.

2020 NOMIS Distinguished Scientists

With the 2020 award ceremony postponed due to the pandemic, the 2020 NOMIS Awardees, Ronald M. Evans and Anthony (Tony) Hyman, were also presented their awards at this year’s ceremony.

Ronald M. Evans

Evans is professor at and director of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies’ Gene Expression Laboratory. The NOMIS Award is enabling Evans to investigate the mechanisms of cooperativity between interconnected networks including the brain, endocrine glands, gut, liver, immune cells and the microbiome. He is also exploring the use of exercise mimetics to prevent neurodegenerative diseases.

Anthony Hyman

Hyman is group leader at and a director of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany. The NOMIS Award is supporting Hyman’s investigation of the physical-chemical basis by which intrinsically disordered proteins phase separate. Using this knowledge, he is studying the roles of phase separation in physiology and disease.

Enabling pioneering research

“The objective of the NOMIS Award is to enable research which otherwise wouldn’t happen,” said NOMIS Managing Director Markus Reinhard. “It’s the unconventional idea we try to support.”

In addition to recognizing the scientific achievements of the awardees, the ceremony also creates a unique opportunity for dialogue and exchange across academic disciplines. Leading scientists, scholars and representatives of world-renowned research institutes, as well as research benefactors, attended the ceremony, which was punctuated by music performed by the Fraumünster Vocal Soloists.

Overcoming barriers through knowledge sharing

Panel discussion addressing the theme “overcoming barriers” at the 2021 NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award ceremony

Pursuing fundamental research brings with it certain risks and challenges. 2016 NOMIS Awardee Manos Tsakiris addressed some of these barriers in a panel discussion with the new awardees following the presentation of the awards. A theme emerged: Mentoring early-career scientists is essential to ensuring scientific and, ultimately, human progress.

This is why NOMIS supports researchers who openly share their knowledge and actively mentor the next generation of scientists and scholars. The new NOMIS Awardees embody these qualities and are skillful leaders in their own labs as well as in their respective fields.

Guest lecture by Robert Ewers at UZH on Oct. 7, 2021

Accordingly, as part of a public lecture series organized at two of NOMIS’ partner institutions in conjunction with the annual award ceremony, each of the awardees presented the research that led to their NOMIS Award nominations as well as their plans for future research enabled by the award.

On Wednesday, Oct. 6, Dulac and Evans held guest lectures at ETH Zurich. Joël Messot, president of ETH, kicked off the evening lectures, emphasizing the importance of basic research. Ewers and Hyman presented their work at the University of Zurich (UZH) the following day. UZH President Michael Schaepman introduced the presenters and underscored the essence of the UZH–NOMIS partnership: a shared spirit with respect to research.

The 2021 award recipients were announced earlier this year.