PopSci has this month announced its fifth annual Brilliant 10 awardees. These are young scientists (average age: 34) just beginning to be noticed outside their respective fields and “changing not just what we know but the limits of what we think it’s possible to know.” PopSci explains the meaning of the Brilliant 10 honor:

By “brilliant,” we don’t mean smart. Or at least not just smart. Brilliance is marked by insight, creativity and tenacity. It’s the confidence to eschew established wisdom in order to develop your own. It’s the foolishness needed to set out for the edge of understanding and sail right past it, ignoring the signs reading “Thar be monsters” (not to mention “Turn back lest ye never be awarded a decent research grant again”).

The work of the 10 winners ranges from the biomechanics of worm movement to birdsong “language” translation. And two of the 10 are working on eco-related projects.

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David Thompson, 36, helped identify the northern El Niño weather pattern called the Arctic Oscillation. The discovery of the AO has greatly influenced climate-change research as some experts suspect emissions are having an effect on the AO’s cycles, causing warmer winters in the Arctic.

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Omar Yaghi, 41, is a hydrogen nano-architect “building the miniscule scaffolds that could one day hold the hydrogen in your gas tank.” Yaghi’s work could also someday result in filters that could capture CO2 from smokestacks.

It’s exciting that these young(ish) researchers are focusing on environmental problems. I always imagine climate scientists as stodgy old men, so it’s refreshing to see someone like Thompson working on the cause (as early as in his 20s). And there’s no doubt about their devotion. Says Yaghi, “I find that shaving in the morning, taking a shower, is an impediment to me getting to the lab.” Ya gotta love science geeks.