Earlier this month, L’Oreal USA, the world’s leading beauty company, celebrated its tenth year of its Fellowships For Women In Science Program, awarding five women scientists for groundbreaking innovative research. The program is a national initiative that recognizes and rewards US-based women researchers at the start of their careers.
Supporting women in science isn’t new for L’Oreal. In fact, more than half of L’Oreal’s company scientists are women. This program is a reflection of their ongoing commitment to offering young women opportunities to be the next leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
“It is so important to support early-career women to improve diversity in the sciences, as well as offer women the platform to make significant changes in the STEM workforce,” said Shirley Malcom of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a partner in the program.
The 2013 Fellows were selected from a pool of over 350 candidates by a review panel and jury of scientists, researchers, and L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Laureates.
The Fellows were chosen based on specific criteria, including academic records, intellectual merit, research proposals and the potential for scientific advancement. AAAS managed the peer-review process. Recipients receive up to $60,000 towards their postdoctoral research.
This year’s awards recognize and support the following female scientists for their incredibly innovative work and discoveries in biology, energy and cancer research. WYSK had a chance to ask each recipient what the award means to them and the impact it will have on their work.
Meet The Recipients
Arpita Bose, Harvard University, Microbiologist
“The award will help me continue my current research on understanding how micro-organisms can use minerals to serve as a source of energy. This seemingly unusual way of life might be more common than we currently estimate, and might provide clues to how pre-historic life might have emerged on Earth and shaped it’s past! Moreover, these microbial capabilities can be harnessed for biofuel production, and might provide solutions to the ever-increasing energy crisis. The fellowship is also allowing me to transition to an Assistant Professor position at Washington University in St. Louis in the Department of Biology in 2014.”
Anisa Salim Ismail, Princeton University, Molecular Biologist
“The L’Oreal USA Fellowships For Women In Science award, breaks the stereotype of who women scientists are and what we do. We are musicians, artists, linguists, athletes, and more; but what we all have in common is our insatiable appetite to ask why and how things work. By highlighting such an interdisciplinary group of women each year, the award educates everyone, especially young women, about the amazing breadth and scope of science, reminding us that we are limited only by our curiosity. Beyond focusing on the incredible creativity that goes into our research, this award also highlights that science is not a stereotypically anti-social field of study, but instead, a collaboration of highly social and vibrant individuals, all interested in answering why.”
Mammals have co-evolved with vast populations of friendly bacteria, the majority of which are found in the intestine. Dr. Ismail will use the award to establish mouse models to study the possibility that the bacteria and mammalian cells “talk” to each other, through a process called quorum sensing, to establish the beneficial relationships shared in the intestine.
Mary Caswell Stoddard, Harvard University, Evolutionary Biologist and Ornithologist
“Programs such as the L’Oreal USA’s play a vital role in enabling young women scientists to develop independent research programs early in their careers. These programs not only support innovative science but also serve to encourage and inspire the next generation of female researchers. I am very honored to have been awarded a 2013 L’Oreal USA Fellowship, which will allow me to pursue multidisciplinary research on the evolution and engineering of avian eggs at Harvard University.”
Dr. Stoddard combines techniques from computer science, genomics and biomineralization to investigate how birds evolved eggshells with diverse structures and special mechanical properties, with the goal of contributing to new tools and advanced materials inspired by eggs.
Robin Evans Stanley, National Institutes of Health, Biochemist
“Programs like L’Oreal USA’s are hugely important for encouraging women to pursue the sciences. Women have made great strides in the sciences but are still underrepresented so we need to continue to encourage young women to pursue science. The grant will provide funds for the continuation of my research at the National Institutes of Health where I work on studying the autophagy pathway. Aside from providing financial assistance in the lab, the fellowship will also provide invaluable professional development experience and a fantastic network of accomplished female scientists that I feel extremely honored to now be a considered a part of.”
Luisa Whittaker-Brooks, Princeton University, Chemical & Biological Engineer
“Over the last decade, nanotechnology and materials science have been predominantly male-dominated grounds. Notably, we have seen women’s contributions grow simultaneously in both fields. This progress in women’s contributions across and beyond STEM fields has been all possible due to programs such as, L’Oreal USA for Women in Science. This kind of initiative serves as a catalyst to spotlight the outstanding research that women are performing in science. This is particularly important, because many women come into graduate programs in science with some level of insecurity that sometimes can be translated into reduced aspirations.
From a research perspective, the grant will help my team generate design rules and guidelines for the rational synthesis of materials with tailored properties and the development of innovative processing and patterning technologies for the realization of environmentally friendly, light-weight, mechanically flexible thin-film devices, such as transistors, thermoelectrics, and solar cells. The materials we intend to synthesize could be a boon for several applications ranging from power generation to microprocessor cooling which would potentially solve energy issues in the world.”
To date, the Fellowships for Women in Science Program has awarded grants to 45 post-doctoral women scientists in the life and physical/material sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer science since its launch in 2003.
The 10th Anniversary L’Oreal USA Fellowships For Women In Science Award ceremony will take place at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on Thursday, October 24, 2013.