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L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Program Celebrates a Decade of Recognizing Pioneering Arab Female Scientists

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L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Program Celebrates a Decade of Recognizing Pioneering Arab Female Scientists

Award ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of nurturing and furthering the research endeavors of 51 female Arab scientists from the GCC with endowments totaling AED 3.4M

The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Program, in partnership with Khalifa University of Science and Technology, celebrated a decade of empowering female scientists from the GCC in the fields of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Science, who have blazed trails and are changing the landscape of scientific discovery in the region.

Since its inception in the GCC in 2014, the program has made prodigious strides in nurturing and furthering the research endeavors of 51 female Arab scientists by awarding endowments totaling AED 3.4 million and supporting their professional growth.

Among them are several scientists who have also received international recognition, with five going on to win the International Rising Talents Awards, and another four scientists receiving the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Award, as well.

The regional program is part of the L’Oréal-UNESCO’s global For Women in Science initiative that has already recognized over 4,100 phenomenal researchers and more than 127 International Laureates from more than 110 countries since its inception in 1998.

The ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary awarded 11 visionary researchers from the GCC underscoring their pivotal role in advancing knowledge, finding solutions to pressing global issues, and pushing the boundaries of scientific understanding.  

For the fifth year in a row, the program has been endorsed by H.E. Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology and Chairperson of the UAE Space Agency.

H.E. said: “The extraordinary accomplishments and dedication of women scientists in the region has paved the way for progress in various fields, influencing everything from healthcare and technology to environment sustainability and space exploration.  Initiative like the one by the Foundation L’Oréal and UNESCO has been empowering female game-changers, encouraging more women into STEM careers, and paving the way toward diversity. Such programs create a necessary foundation in our pursuit for scientific progress, innovation and a more inclusive society.”

STEM is regarded as critical to national economies, yet most countries, no matter what their level of development have not achieved gender equality in these fields. At the end of the 1990s, women represented 27% of researchers worldwide. In 2014, that increased to 30%. While there has been a gradual increase in the number of women pursuing scientific careers, they are still disproportionately underrepresented in the domain of research.

According to the latest UNESCO Science report, even today, just one in three researchers is a woman, and this drops by nearly half at a senior level. Additionally, less than 4% of women have been awarded a Nobel Prize for Science.

These unsettling figures continue to propel the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Program, which was established on the ethos that ‘The world needs science and science needs women’. The program was created to break down barriers to progress for women in STEM and provide them with the tools to succeed.

Laurent Duffier, L’Oréal Middle East Managing Director said: “Since its inception 10 years ago, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Program has stood as testament to the remarkable talent, intellect and determination of female scientists in the GCC. It has furthered the fight for gender equality in STEM careers, bringing forward their invaluable contributions and cutting-edge research. As we move into the next decade and beyond, we will continue to strive for greater representation, supporting the dreams of young scientists and dismantling the barriers that still exist.

Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, said: “We are proud to be associated with the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Middle East program for the fifth consecutive year, which has been successfully creating equal opportunities for the region’s women researchers for the past decade. As a research-intensive academic institution, we witness the indispensable and multi-faceted role that our own women faculty and researchers play in driving scientific progress, technological innovation and societal development every day. We need to continue creating such avenues of growth and support for them, which will lead to the long-term prosperity, security and wellbeing in the region.”

Dr. Tamara Elzein, the program’s newly appointed Jury President and the Secretary General of The National Council for Scientific Research, Lebanon, added: “Women scientists have been underrepresented and uncredited for their contributions throughout history. Even today, we have an uphill battel in bringing attention to their groundbreaking work, which is critical for the advancement of sciences. That is why programs like L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science are essential to addressing the systemic gender bias by raising the profile of women scientists and supporting the growth of their careers. Equal representation matters because it brings diversity of perspectives, and fairness and equity to the field, all of which are necessary to create a robust scientific community that can further innovation to counter societal challenges.”

About the 2023 Middle East Regional Young Talents

PhD students:

  • Sara Ishaq Alkhoori (UAE): For her research on examining eco-friendly biofuel production to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change, yielding universal benefits.
  • Lila Ali Aldakheel (KSA): For her research on identifying groups of microorganisms that can break down plastic to manage waste and help the environment.
  • Nadin Nagy Mahmoud Younes (Qatar): For her research on the development of low-cost, easy-to-use tests (LFAs) for the early and rapid detection of Norovirus (NoV) and Hepatitis E (HEV).

Post-doctorate researchers:

  • Dr. Noha Mousaad Elemam (UAE): For her research on developing early breast cancer biomarkers with the goal of understanding cancer progression and achieving better patients’ survival rates.
  • Dr. Dana Alsulaiman (KSA): For her research on addressing challenges in cancer diagnosis through advanced biosensing platforms to enhance early disease detection and better prognosis globally.
  • Dr. Fatma H. Al-Awadhi (Kuwait): For her research on exploring the marine biodiversity in the gulf region for untapped therapeutic potential.

About the 2022 Middle East Regional Young Talents

PhD students:

  • Hessa Ebrahim Ali Alfalahi (UAE): For her research on early detection and diagnosis of depression and Parkinson’s disease using smartphone data collected in-the-wild through novel Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms.
  • Ayesha Abdulla Alkhoori (UAE): For her research on converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into clean fuel to alleviate global warming and provide a solution for the energy depletion crisis.

Post-doctorate researchers:

  • Dr. Maha Zakariya Yahya Al-Riyami (Oman): For her research on investigating somatic mutations in type 1 diabetes that can lead to new avenues for autoimmunity research.
  • Dr. Raefa Abou Khouzam (UAE): For her research on investigating new treatment strategies to counter pancreatic cancer growth and evolution.
  • Dr. Fatiha M. Benslimane (Qatar): For her research on developing a fast, reliable and cost-effective protocol for microbial analysis to allow real-time diagnosis.

The 10th edition of the program housed an impressive jury of eight renowned experts from prestigious institutions in the Middle East including:

Dr. Tamara Elzein, Jury President and Secretary General of The National Council for Scientific Research, Lebanon

Dr. Maha Al Mozaini, Research, Development and Innovation Authority, Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Thurayya Arayssi, Weill Cornell Medical College, Qatar.

Dr. Ameenah Farhan, Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, Kuwait.

Dr. Habiba Al Safar, Khalifa University, United Arab Emirates.

Dr. Fatma Taher, Zayed University, United Arab Emirates.

Dr. Rihab Nasr, American University of Beirut, Lebanon

Dr. Abeer AlBawab, The University of Jordan, Jordan

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