L'Oreal-UNESCO Announce Women in Science Award Laureates

L’Oréal and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have announced the five laureates for the 13th Annual L’Oréal-UNESCO for 2011 Women in Science Awards, many of whom have a chemistry background. Each year, five women scientists are honored for the contributions of their research, the strength of their commitments and their impact on society. Since the centennial anniversary of Marie Curie's receiving the Nobel Prize will be celebrated in 2011, next year will truly mark the importance of women in science.

More than 1,000 scientists from around the world were involved nominations for the award candidates. The selection was then narrowed down to five women researchers in the physical sciences by the International Awards Jury, comprised of 16 eminent members of the scientific community and presided by Ahmed Zewail, recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The five candidates include:

Faiza Al-Kharafi, PhD, a professor of chemistry at Kuwait University, for her work on corrosion, a problem of fundamental importance to the water treatment and oil industry. Born in Kuwait, Al-Kharafi earned a bachelor's of science degree from Am Shams University in Egypt before returning to Kuwait to pursue her master's of science and doctorate degrees from Kuwait University. She has held a number of teaching and research positions at Kuwait University, including serving as the first female president of the university from 1993 to 2002. The first Kuwait-France Chemistry Symposium was held under her patronage in 2009, and she is currently vice president of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World.

Vivian Wing-Wah Yam, PhD, a professor of chemistry and energy at the University of Hong Kong, for her work on light-emitting materials and innovative ways of capturing solar energy. Wing-Wah Yam was born in Hong Kong, where she pursued her university studies, obtaining her doctorate at the University of Hong Kong. After two years at the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong, she moved to the University of Hong Kong in 1990, where she became a professor in 1997 and chair professor in 1999. She was head of chemistry for six years from 2000 to 2005 and became a professor in chemistry and energy in 2009 at the University of Hong Kong. She is an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, and has been awarded a Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) Centenary lectureship and medal.

Anne L’Huillier, PhD, a professor of atomic physics at Lund University, was nominated for her work on the development of the fastest camera for recording events in attoseconds (one billionth of a billionth of a second). L’Huillier obtained her doctorate in physical sciences in France at the Université de Paris VI. After postdoctoral research in Sweden and the United States, she was a researcher at the French Atomic Energy Commission from 1986-1995. She then transferred to Lund Unversity, where she has been professor atomic physics since 1997. She has received numerous awards, is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Silvia Torres-Peimbert, PhD, a professor emeritus for the Institute of Astronomy at Mexico City University, has been nominated for her work on the chemical composition of nebula, which is reportedly fundamental to the understanding of the origin of the universe. A native of Mexico, Torres-Peimbert obtained her doctorate at the University of California Berkeley. She then became professor in the faculty of sciences and the Institute of Astronomy at UNAM. She currently is emeritus professor and since 2009, has been coordinator of physical, mathematical and engineering sciences at the university. She is a member of the American Astronomical Society, the Academy of Sciences of the Developing World, and is a past vice president of the International Astronomical Union.

Finally, Jillian Banfield, PhD, professor of earth and planetary science; of environmental science, policy and management; and of materials science and engineering at the University of California, was nominated for her work on bacterial and material behavior under extreme conditions relevant to the environment and the earth. Banfield received her bachelor's and master's degrees in geology from the Australian National University. She subsequently completed a doctorate in earth and planetary science at Johns Hopkins University. From 1990-2001, she was a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since then, she has been a professor at the University of California-Berkeley and an affiliate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She has been honored with numerous awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship, The Dana Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America and a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. She was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2006.

For the past 13 years, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation and UNESCO have sought to recognize women researchers who, through the scope of their work, have contributed to overcoming the global challenges of tomorrow. Each year, the program highlights scientific excellence and encourages talent. Faced with global challenges such as the acceleration of new technologies, aging populations or the threat to biodiversity, L’Oréal and UNESCO remain convinced that these women researchers will have a major impact on society and lay the foundations for the future. As such, L’Oréal and UNESCO want to contribute to their recognition and provide them with the means to continue their commitment to science with energy and passion.

In 13 years, the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards have recognized 67 Laureates, two of whom received the Nobel Prize in 2009, and 864 fellowships have been granted to young women scientists from 93 countries so that they can continue their research projects. As a result, the programme has become a benchmark of scientific excellence on an international scale, revealing the contributions of these scientific women each year.

The awards ceremony will take place on March 3, 2011, at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Each Laureate will receive US $100,000 in recognition of her contribution to science.

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