Celebrating its 12th year in the US, the L'Oréal For Women in Science program has awarded 60 postdoctoral women scientists nearly $3 million in grants. The announcement is being made in conjunction with Ada Lovelace Day – an annual event aimed at raising the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The five fellows are: Sarah Ballard, a postdoctoral fellow in exoplanetary astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Julie Meyer, a postdoctoral scientist in marine microbiology at the University of Florida; Sarah Richardson, a postdoctoral fellow in synthetic biology at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and at the University of California, Berkeley; Claire Robertson, a postdoctoral scientist in cancer bioengineering at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab; and, Ming Yi, a postdoctoral scientist in condensed matter physics at the University of California, Berkeley.
“As shown by this year’s For Women in Science fellows, the contributions of women in STEM are exceptional, yet too often go unnoticed,” said Frédéric Rozé, President and CEO of L’Oréal USA. “As the global leader in beauty, L’Oréal’s pioneering legacy of innovation is built upon our scientific workforce – which is made up of more than 70 percent women – and we are proud to recognize the achievements of these fellows through our ongoing support of women in science.”
The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program is a global program that recognizes and rewards women scientists around the world. Specifically, the program supports women researchers at different stages of their careers and encourages more young women to pursue STEM in a field where women remain underrepresented.
Since the worldwide program began in 1998, more than 2,250 scientists in over 110 countries have been awarded for their work.
“The L’Oreal For Women in Science Fellowship helped me at a pivotal time in my career, when funding was crucial to move my research forward,” said Dr. Anne Carpenter, 2006 L’Oreal USA For Women in Science Fellow and Imaging Platform Director at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. “The grant allowed me to create, develop and test a software program to more effectively measure cells in images to help investigate diseases. This software has been cited nearly 3,000 times and has yielded groundbreaking discoveries in cellular biology and biomedicine regarding the Ebola virus, tuberculosis and leukemia, among others.”
The U.S. fellowship program includes a requirement focused on ensuring the fellows have a commitment to serve as role models for younger generations. The 2015 fellowship candidates were evaluated based on their intellectual merit, research potential, scientific excellence and their commitment to supporting women and girls in science. Applications were reviewed by experienced scientists in the candidates’ respective fields through a partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), who manages the application process.
Ballard, a Torres Fellow in exoplanetary astrophysics at the MIT, focuses on the rapidly evolving field of exoplanets, which are planets that orbit stars other than the sun and may resemble Earth. She discovered four exoplanets and was previously awarded the prestigious NASA Carl Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowship. The L’Oreal USA For Women in Science award will enable Ballard to form and lead her first research team.
Meyer is a postdoctoral scientist in marine microbiology at the University of Florida. Her research focuses on the role of microbial interactions in the health and stability of coral reefs and is performed in collaboration with the Smithsonian Marine Station. Specifically, Meyer is researching how shifts in coral microbiota are associated with Black Band Disease, a disease that kills healthy tissue in many different species of reef-building corals. The L’Oréal USA For Women in Science fellowship will support the further development of Meyer’s research including the sequencing of whole genomes. Building on her strong commitment to mentoring, Meyer will also use the fellowship to produce a short documentary film highlighting the work of women in coral reef research. The documentary will be shared online and presented to girls in the Gainesville area as part of Meyer’s effort to expose girls to the diversity of scientific careers.
Richardson is a postdoctoral fellow in synthetic biology at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and at the University of California, Berkeley. She focuses on harnessing bacteria to make molecules that could lead to the development of new biofuels and medicines. Specifically, Richardson’s research on CRISPR and other bacterially derived tools for genome editing will make it easier for other scientists to implement biomanufacturing. The L’Oréal USA For Women in Science fellowship will enable Richardson to conduct independent research that will further her career.
Robertson is a postdoctoral scientist in cancer bioengineering at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. She is using her background in imaging and biomechanics to better understand how the normal environment in the breast acts to suppress tumor formation through biophysical mechanisms. This research has the potential to rapidly reduce breast cancer mortality by mimicking these mechanisms with new drugs and improving prediction of when cancerous cells will grow or metastasize. The L’Oreal USA For Women in Science fellowship will provide Robertson with the resources to focus exclusively on developing new research techniques and performing complex experiments.
Yi is a postdoctoral scientist in condensed matter physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Her work focuses on high-temperature superconductivity, a phenomenon in which electrons coherently pair up to travel without resistance in a material at a relatively high temperature. This research is already being applied in the development of high-efficiency power transmission lines and high-speed Maglev trains. The L’Oréal USA For Women in Science fellowship will enable Yi to purchase raw materials and travel to other world-class facilities to perform her experiments.