MIT Physics News Spotlight
England named to The forbes 30 under 30 rising stars of science
Matthew Herper, Forbes
December 19, 2011
Jeremy L. England, Assistant Professor of Physics
The assignment seemed impossible – even a bit crazy. Find 30 scientists and innovators under age 30 who were worth highlighting in the pages of Forbes.
Sure, other publications find 35 or even 40 young-ish stars every year, but they tend to cross across a far broader swath. I wasn’t to include too many tech companies – there was another list of 30 being assembled for tech. The idea was that, as part of Forbes’ first 30 Under 30 project, we would be putting together not one but 12 different lists of rising stars in fields including not only science and tech but also energy, finance, art, music and law.
The problem with this, as any graduate student or postdoctoral fellow will eagerly tell you, is that nobody makes it in science by age 30 anymore. Sure, Nobel Prize Winning Physicists like Frank Wilczek or Richard Feynman made their mark that young. But these days, making a contribution requires coming to understand more specialized information that ever before, not to mention a need to get your hands on expensive gadgets like DNA sequencers and particle accelerators. Nobody in science makes it by age 30 anymore. That’s what I told my editors.
I was wrong. This list, assembled with help from geneticist and cardiologist Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Institute, physicist Lisa Randall of Harvard University, and genomics technologist Stephen Quake of Stanford, shows how even in this day and age some researchers manage to make their mark young. There’s Daniela Witten (highlighted in a photo spread in Forbes Magazine), developing new statistical tools to understand genetic data that could someday lead to new treatments for disease, and Christina Fan, who already developed a blood test for Down’s syndrome that is moving toward the market. There’s MIT physicist Jeremy England, working to understand the basic physics behind biological processes like protein folding. There are researchers from Intel, IBM, GlaxoSmithKline, and Genentech developing everything from nanotech to new ways to diagnose cancer.
Jean Baptiste-Michel, a researcher at Google and Harvard who has been using giant databases of books, even told me that the age 30 cut off wasn’t so crazy – in most fields, many people whose names eventually wind up in the dictionary do make their mark by age 30. Except maybe science. Especially not physics and math. (More on that in this post.) Well, whatever. These 30 are beating the odds. See more in the photo gallery above, or read the whole list on one page here. For a look at the complete 30 Under 30 project, go here.