Pioneering Chinese palaeontologist among Asia-Pacific L’Oréal for Women in Science honourees
A Chinese palaeontologist whose pioneering work has given new insights into prehistoric life and three rising talents from Asia-Pacific were honoured at this year's L’Oréal for Women in Science Awards.
Professor Mee-Mann Chang, with the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, was one of five 2018 L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Laureates honoured in a ceremony at UNESCO headquarters on 22 March.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Women for Science Awards and the programme’s mandate – to promote gender equality and raise the profile of women making valuable contributions to science– remains more vital than ever. Today, women account for only 29% of all scientists worldwide and to date only 3% of all Nobel laureates in science have been women.
The L’Oréal-UNESCO recognition is the latest honour in the distinguished career of the 81-year-old professor, with the jury celebrating her “pioneering work on fossil records leading to insights on how aquatic vertebrates adapted to life on land.”
All laureates received a prize of €100,000.
Three young women scientists from Asia-Pacific were among the 15 rising talents selected from 275 who had earlier received research L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science fellowships at national and regional ceremonies.
Creating innovative healthcare solutions that can improve the quality of life for people living in remote and rural areas is the goal of honouree Dr Hiep Nguyen from Viet Nam. “My current work focuses on biomaterials, such as bio-glue, bio-tape and needleless suturing for wound repair that can be used directly by patients at home,” she said. Her team is currently working on a “smart gel” that they hope will be useful in eliminating bacteria and promoting rapid tissue regeneration when treating wounds.
Dr Weang Kee Ho, from the Department of Applied Mathematics of the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, received the distinction for her work in promoting the early detection of breast cancer. This is a life-and-death issue in Asia where the incidence of the disease is expected to increase by up to 50% between 2012 and 2025 and where the five-year survival rate is just 49% in some countries, compared to 89% in Western countries.
Dr Ho, an epidemiological statistician, is developing a tool that can be used to identify high risk women and focus screening programmes on these groups. “It was during my doctoral studies that I realized that the mathematical skills I had gained could be a powerful tool to answer many important scientific questions,” she said.
Japanese researcher Dr Yukiko Ogawa was recognized for her breakthrough work in materials science. Dr Ogawa, from Japan’s Research Centre for Structural Materials’ National Institute for Materials Science, spearheaded a breakthrough in the use of magnesium alloys, an advance which could have an impact on everything from medical devices such as stents to more environmentally friendly transportation systems. “Material science is the foundation of our modern society,” she says. “Improvements in the properties of materials and the development of new materials enables radical innovation.”
Over the last 20 years, more than 3,100 women have been recognized by the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science.