L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women In Science programme recognises South African female scientists
13-11-2019 10:21:00 | by: Pie Kamau | hits: 2979 | Tags:

The first edition of the L'Oréal-UNESCO  For Women in  South African National Program Science , highlights L'Oréal's strong commitment to South African female scientists and its ambition to contribute to the development of scientific excellence.

The L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science initiative was founded 21 years ago and has supported and raised the profile of 107 laureates and more than 3,100 talented young doctoral and post-doctoral scientists, providing research grants in 117 countries.

The sub-Saharan Africa regional program has seen significant growth since it's inception in 2010. With the vision of reaching more female scientists across Africa, the first edition of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science South African National Young Talents program was launched , this year.

“Today, there are simply not enough women scientists in Africa to drive change at the scale at which it is needed. Science and technology are among the principle keys to addressing these challenges. It is vital that women and men are empowered to contribute fully and equally to the development of solutions, foster innovation and locally relevant research, ”explains Gilles Antoine, Country Manager or L'Oreal South Africa.

“The world continues to face unprecedented challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, exposure to illnesses and challenges with food security, among other issues. Women in science can change the world. They have the power to change the world provided they are given the means. This year, as we honor seven emerging women scientists from across South Africa, we reaffirm our commitment to empower more young women scientists, so they receive the recognition they deserve, ”he concludes.

The seven female researchers - five doctoral and two post-doctoral - were selected for the scientific excellence of their work from over 175 applicants, by a jury or independent experts.

The winners will travel to Dakar, Senegal to attend the sub-Saharan Africa regional program leadership training and ceremony. They will benefit from a training program that will help strengthen their career. The objective is to empower them to pursue their career and break the glass ceiling more easily.

These female researchers were awarded a research grant at a ceremony in Johannesburg in front of a distinguished audience. This entire initiative serves one goal; highlight scientific excellence of female researchers in South Africa, in order to create role models, encourage other young women to become scientists and empower women to shape the future of the continent.

The winners

PhD candidates

Each PhD candidate will receive a research grant of R80,000  

1. Dr. Yogandree Ramsamy

Department of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal 

Triangulating the Molecular Epidemiology of Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae from Humans, Food, Animals and the Environment

Antibiotics are used in animals for food production and treating infections. In human health, they are used in the prevention and management of infectious disease. Dr. Ramsamy is researching antibiotic resistance in the one health context. The research will assist in saving antimicrobials for future generations to fight infectious diseases globally

2. Shantelle Claassen

Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town 

Nasopharyngeal bacterial community profiles as a biomarker for Lower Respiratory Tract Infections (LRTI) during infancy

Shantelle is contributing to research focused on enhanced detection of pathogenic microorganisms to improve the aetiological diagnosis of Lower Respiratory Tract Infections (LRTIs). LRTIs, in particular pneumonia, remains the biggest killer of children under five. The primary victims are children from sub-Saharan African countries.

3. Chelsea Tucker

Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town

Designing a catalyst with improved fuel selectivity for decentralized waste-to-fuel production in Africa 

Chelsea is designing a simpler way to convert organic waste to fuel using a South African-grown technique called the Fischer-Tropsch process. Decentralizing diesel production would definitely improve energy security in the region and become a revenue source for marginalized communities.

4. Emma Platts

Department of Mathematics & Applied Mathematics, University of Cape Town

Machine Learning and Data Clustering Techniques to Probe Fast Radio Bursts and Constrain Cosmological Parameters

Emma's background is in theoretical cosmology, but two things drew for practical work in astrophysics for the PhD: the rise of machine learning and data science; and the enormous advancements in telescope sensitivity and design. Of particular interest to her, Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are described as very bright and letter radio signals that emanate from outside our galaxy. She is using mathematical and computational techniques to analyze astronomical signals. This will help determine the distribution of matter in our galaxy.

5. Sinenhlanhla Sikhosana

College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, University  of KwaZulu-Nata l

Diffuse Radio Emission in Atacama Cosmology Telescope's polarimetric extension Clusters

Sinenhlanhla uses radio telescopes to observe galaxy clusters. These are a large group of galaxies, like our Milky Way, bound together by gravity. The data collected by telescopes is used to study the physical processes occurring within the clusters. The research entails understanding high-energy particle physics on large-scale structures in the universe. The methods used will shed light on how to handle image processing using big data.

Post-Doctoral Researchers 

Each post-doctoral award winner will receive a research grant or R160 000 

1. Dr. Melissa Nel

Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town 

Investigating the genetic basis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in subjects or African genetic ancestry

The cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is unknown and there is no effective treatment for this disease. Sufferers are condemned to a poor quality of life and a dismal prognosis usually succumbing to death from respiratory failure within three years of symptom onset. Dr. Nel is establishing a Neuromuscular Disease & Genomic Medicine Research Group. The aim is to understand the genetic factors which predispose an individual to developing ALS. She hopes to use the unique skill set to identify AS susceptibility genes in Africans.

 2. Dr. Busiswa Ndaba 

Institute for Soil, Climate and Water, Agricultural Research Council 

Sustainable production and application of nanofertilizers through the adoption or biosynthesis approach

Dr Ndaba is investigating sustainable production and application of nanofertilizers through the adoption of biosynthesis approach using plant extracts in place of chemicals. This project can go a long way in assisting crop producers with alternative methods to increase their crop growth. This will in turn form part of the world's sustainable development goals, aimed at “no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being”.