2013 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Laureates

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20 November 2013

UK Scientist Second in Two Years to Receive Global Award at the 15th Annual L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards.

UK Scientist Professor Pratibha Gai has been named the 2013 European Laureate in the 15th annual L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards.

Professor of Chemistry and Physics at the University of York, Pratibha follows in the footsteps of Professor Frances Ashcroft who won the award for Europe in 2012. Pratibha joins five exceptional women scientists from around the world, one from each continent, who will be recognised for their contribution to science at an awards ceremony, held at UNESCO in March 2013.

The $100,000 award celebrates the outstanding achievements of women in science and is recognised as one of the premier international science awards. Professor Gai was chosen for modifying her electron microscope so that she was able to observe chemical reactions occurring at surface atoms of catalysts.

The Awards jury was chaired by Professor Ahmed Zewail, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and Linus Pauling Chair Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Physics, California Institute of Technology.

The theme of the 2013 awards is “Physical Sciences” and the Laureates were selected through nominations by an international network of nearly 1,000 members of the international scientific community. The research of the 2013 Laureates demonstrates exceptionally original approaches to fundamental research in the Physical Sciences, from contributing to better understanding climate change to advancing research on neurodegenerative diseases and potentially uncovering new energy sources.

The Awards Ceremony will take place on 28th March 2013, at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Each Laureate will receive $100,000 in recognition of her contribution to science.

The Laureates of the 2013 L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards in Physical Sciences are:

Professor Pratibha GAI, University of York (United Kingdom)

For ingeniously modifying her electron microscope so that she was able to observe chemical reactions occurring at surface atoms of catalysts which will help scientists in their development of new medicines or new energy sources.

Professor Francisca Nneka OKEKE, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (Nigeria)

For her significant contributions to the understanding of daily variations of the ion currents in the upper atmosphere which may further our understanding of climate change.

Professor Reiko KURODA, Tokyo University of Science (Japan)

For discovering the functional importance of the difference between left handed and right handed molecules which has applications for research in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Professor Marcia BARBOSA, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre (Brazil)

For discovering one of the peculiarities of water which may lead to better understanding of how earthquakes occur and how proteins fold which is important for the treatment of diseases.

Professor Deborah JIN, University of Colorado, Boulder (USA)

For having been the first to have cooled down molecules so much that she can observe chemical reactions in slow motion which may help understand the molecular processes of disease.

“These five outstanding women scientists have given the world a better understanding of how nature works,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Their pioneering research and discoveries have changed the way we think in various areas of the physical sciences and opened new frontiers in science and technology. Such key developments have the potential to transform our society. Their work, their dedication, serves as an inspiration to us all.”

A Global Programme Promoting Women and Careers in Science

“We are very proud to have changed the face of science by supporting women in science” said Jean-Paul Agon, Chairman and CEO of L'Oréal and Chairman of L'Oréal Foundation. “We are convinced that science and women bring hope and foster discovery, innovation and excellence. All the best talents must be called upon to accomplish this mission. L'Oréal believes in women, L'Oréal believes in science.”

Established in 1998, the L'Oréal-UNESCO partnership is a long-term commitment to recognizing women in science and supporting scientific vocations. For Women in Science has grown into a global programme that includes International, Regional and National Fellowships and an international network of more than 1,300 women in 106 countries.

Over the past 15 years, the For Women in Science Award has recognized a great diversity of scientists, 77 women working across the spectrum of research, from curing diseases to protecting the environment. Year after year, the creativity of these women in science and the importance of their findings continuously contribute to better understanding and improving the world we live in.

Professor Gai is Professor of Chemistry and Physics at the University of York. She is the 4th British scientist to have been selected for the European continent in the 15 years of the programme's existence. This is a remarkably high number of Laureates from any one country, with only France matching this total for Europe, highlighting how the UK is an excellent incubator of scientific talent.

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