L'Oréal's 'Women in Science' Laureates Revealed

(Left to Right): Alicia Dickenstein, Latin America and the Caribbean; Françoise Combes, Europe; Catherine Ngila, Africa and the Arab States.
(Left to Right): Alicia Dickenstein, Latin America and the Caribbean; Françoise Combes, Europe; Catherine Ngila, Africa and the Arab States.

The Foundation L'Oréal and UNESCO have announced the 23rd For Women in Science International Awards, which honor five eminent women scientists with exceptional careers.

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Representing every major region of the world, the laureates are rewarded for the excellence of their research in physical sciences, mathematics and computer science.

Laureate for Africa and the Arab States: Catherine Ngila–chemistry

Ngila was awarded for introducing and developing nanotechnology based analytical methods for the monitoring of water pollutants and applying them in countries heavily impacted by pollution.

Her work is of vital importance for the development of sustainable water resource management, respecting the environment.

Ngila currently serves as acting executive director of the African Academy of Sciences and is a former deputy vice chancellor in charge of academic and student affairs at Riara University, Kenya, and visiting professor of applied chemistry at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Laureate for Asia and the Pacific: Kyoko Nozaki-chemistry

Nozaki was awarded for her pioneering, creative contributions within the field of synthetic chemistry, and their importance to industrial innovation. 

Her research has led to new, highly effective and environmentally friendly production processes to manufacture molecules useful for medicine and sustainable agriculture.

Nozaki currently serves as professor of chemistry at the University of Tokyo, Japan.

Laureate for North America: Shafi Goldwasser–computer science

Goldwasser was awarded for her pioneering and fundamental work in computer science and cryptography, essential for secure communication over the internet as well as for shared computation on private data.

Her research has a significant impact on our understanding of large classes of problems for which computers cannot efficiently find approximate solutions.

Goldwasser is the director of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing as well as professor in electrical engineering and computer sciences at University of California Berkeley, RSA professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, United States of America and professor of computer science and applied mathematics at Weizmann Institute, Israel.

Laureate for Europe: Françoise Combes–astrophysics

Combes was awarded for her legacy in astrophysics which ranges from the discovery of molecules in the interstellar space to supercomputer simulations of galaxy formation.

Her work has been crucial in our understanding of the birth and evolution of stars and galaxies, including the role played by super-massive black holes at galactic centers.

Combes serves as professor and galaxies and cosmology chair at the Collège de France in Paris, and astrophysicist at the Paris Observatory in PSL, France.

Laureate for Latin America and the Caribbeans: Alicia Dickenstein–mathematics

Dickenstein was awarded for her contributions at the forefront of mathematical innovation by leveraging algebraic geometry in the field of molecular biology.

Her research enables scientists to understand the precise structures and behavior of cells and molecules, even at a microscopic scale. Operating at the frontier between pure and applied mathematics, she has forged important links to physics and chemistry, and enabled biologists to gain an in-depth structural understanding of biochemical reactions and enzymatic networks.

Dickenstein serves as professor of mathematics at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

According to a UNESCO study on women in science the number of women pursuing careers in science is on the rise, but progress is still too slow, particularly in physical sciences, mathematics, computer science and engineering. 

Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, assistant director-general for natural sciences at UNESCO, said,  “This new study shows it is not enough to attract women to a scientific or technological discipline. We must also know how to retain them, ensuring that their careers are not strewn with obstacles and that their achievements are recognized and supported by the international scientific community. While they represent 33% of researchers, only 12% of them, on average, are members of national academies of sciences around the world."

Alexandra Palt, executive vice president of the Foundation L’Oréal, said, "The invisibilization of women in science is still too significant. Today, less than 4% of the scientific Nobel Prizes have been awarded to women and the glass ceiling still persists in research. We absolutely must aspire to a profound transformation of institutions, of teaching and promotion of female researchers, of the system as a whole. While the gender imbalance remains in science, we will never be able to meet the challenges of an inclusive society or to tackle the scientific issues the world is facing.”

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