Caltech Professor to Be Honored With 3 Other "Immigrant Scientists"

Published : Tuesday, February 5, 2019 | 5:49 AM

A professor at Pasadena’s Caltech is to be awarded the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise with three other immigrant scientists in the biomedical science field.

Dr. Mikhail Shapiro, a chemical engineering professor at heading up Caltech research on the development of molecular technologies for noninvasive imaging and control of cellular function, will be the honoree at a New York gala this spring.

Dr. Shapiro is being recognized along “Immigrant scientists are behind some of the most transformative discoveries made on American soil, as epitomized by the winners of the Vilcek Foundation Prizes,” Jan Vilcek, Chairman and CEO of the Vilcek Foundation, said. “Their work has extraordinary implications for our understanding of human biology and our prospects for treating human disease.”

Shapiro was born in the former Soviet Union. The $50,000 prize is for his “groundbreaking research and invention of a new class of bioimaging tools, allowing for an unprecedented insight into living cells within an organism,” the Vilcek Foundation said in a statement.

Through his research facility at Caltech – the Shapiro Lab – the honoree developed “a new class of noninvasive imaging tools to visualize molecules and structures in living organisms at high resolution,” according to the Vilcek Foundation statement.

He also fashioned sensors allowing magnetic resonance imaging to visualize clinically relevant molecules, like dopamine, which play a role in various brain disorders. Shapiro then co-opted structures known as “gas vesicles,” a biological feature in certain bacteria, to serve as ultrasound sensors.

He further demonstrated that these, and other biomolecules, could be used to monitor and manipulate genetically engineered microbes, maximizing their greater potential as therapeutic drugs, the statement said.

Dr. Shapiro is currently Heritage Principal Investigator at the Schlinger Scholar Affiliated Faculty of Bioengineering and Medical Engineering at Caltech. He obtained his bachelor of science in neuroscience from Brown University in 2004. His doctorate in biological engineering was awarded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008.

The Vilcek Foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia. Its mission is to honor the contributions of immigrants and to foster appreciation of the arts and sciences. It was inspired by the couple’s careers in biomedical science and art history, as well as their appreciation for the opportunities they received as newcomers to the U.S.

To learn more about the Vilcek Foundation, visit

To learn more about Dr. Shapiro’s work at Caltech, visit

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