L'Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Awards 2018

Female scientists from London, Oxford, Cambridge and Glasgow named in the prestigious L’Oréal UNESCO For Women In Science awards.

For the past 11 years, L’Oréal UKI and UNESCO UK have annually awarded 5 Fellowships worth £15,000 to early career researchers. The Fellowships are designed to provide flexible and practical financial support for the winners to further their research and careers.

The winners of the highly contested 2018 L’Oréal-UNESCO UK & Ireland For Women In Science Fellowships (FWIS) were announced on 25 May 2018 at a ceremony at the Royal Society in London.

The L’Oréal UNESCO For Women in Science Awards are designed to provide flexible and practical financial support for the winners to further their research and careers and provide support to keep them in the scientific community. With the flexible grant, winners may choose to spend their fellowship on buying scientific equipment, paying for childcare costs, travel costs or indeed whatever they need to continue their research.

Dr Yanlan Mao of University College London explores the fundamentals behind cell and tissue repair after injury. The implications of this research would be scar reduction and advanced wound healing in patients. Born in China, Yanlan explains that girls are often encouraged to study arts and humanities, not science and so her career to date has been about challenging expectations. As a mother of one, nursery fees currently take half her salary and her lab is currently funded by grants, meaning her work into mechanical regulation of tissue repair is restricted. Her £15,000 L’Oréal UNESCO fellowship will go a way to expanding her research capabilities and counteracting the difficulties faced by women in the scientific field.

Dr Emma Liu of The University of Cambridge is engaged in volcanology research, measuring metals in volcanic emissions using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and seeks to build her own research group in the field. Her research interests rely heavily on technology and plans to use part of her £15,000 to fund her drone pilot’s licence in order to become more independent in her research. She is a strong advocate for women in science and believes the award will not only help to further her own research but will give her a voice to inspire the next generation

Dr Nicola Farrer of The University of Oxford research aims to expand the use of ultrasound to deliver anti-cancer drugs. Her research focuses on a particular childhood cancer with an extremely low life expectancy and her advances aim to further the treatment these children can receive. As a mother of two, Dr Farrer works part time but currently most technical issues need to be solved by her in person, delaying crucial developments. Her fellowship will therefore be spent on funding a lab technician to support the constant development of her laboratory work.

Dr Nathiya Muthalagu of the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research seeks to understand the processes that drive tumour development and how the immune system can be harnessed for more effective anti-cancer therapy or prevention – particularly in pancreatic tumours. With a one year old, the L’Oréal UNESCO funding will cover part of her childcare costs. Nathiya Muthalagu currently uses her annual leave to take one day off a week. Covering her childcare costs will increase the time she can spend in the lab and her productivity.

Dr Lucia Prieto-Godino of The Francis Crick Institute is a neuroscientist working to uncover the fundamental principles involved in development and evolution of the brain. She also directs a non-profit organisation to promote scientific research in Africa. It is this kind of field and outreach work she seeks to continue, alongside her laboratory work, with the fellowship money awarded to her.

Dr Beth Taylor, Chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO said: “Women are significantly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. In the UK, only 23% of women work in STEM careers and, worldwide, women make up only 28% of scientific researchers. The L’ORÉAL-UNESCO FWIS awards champion female scientists and it is important that we work together to bring the achievements of these women into the lives of those who could be the next generation of scientists”

Dr Steve Shiel, Director of Scientific and Corporate Affairs for L’Oréal UK &Ireland said “It is always inspiring to see the extraordinary work that is being carried out in diverse scientific disciplines all across the UK. These fellowships are designed to encourage, but also showcase, the amazing contribution female scientists are making, and considering this year’s winners, I think we have achieved that this year.”

The winners were selected by a jury of eminent scientists, chaired by Professor Carol Robinson who was awarded L’Oréal’s prestigious International Laureate in 2015, and included Dr Steve Shiel, Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs for L’Oreal UK & Ireland; Professor Carlos Frenk, Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology; Professor John O’Halloran, Vice-President for Teaching and Learning Professesor and Chair of Zoology at University College Cork; Professor Dame Anne Glover, Vice-Principal External Affairs and Dean for Europe of the University of Aberdeen; Professor Gwyneth Stallard, Professor of Mathematics at the Open University and Dr Beth Taylor, Chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO.