KAUST researchers win L'Oréal-UNESCO Fellowships

Two members of KAUST's research community have been honored by the L'Oréal Foundation, receiving the L'Oréal-UNESCO "For Women in Science" fellowships.

Two members of KAUST's research community, Jasmeen Merzaban, Assistant Professor of Bioscience, and Ph.D. student Nouf Alshareef, have been honored by the L'Oréal Foundation, receiving the L'Oréal-UNESCO "For Women in Science" fellowships at a ceremony in Dubai on November 17.

Prof. Merzaban was recognized for her research in the field of immunology, where she focuses on stem cells and cell migration, and Alshareef for her work in identifying genes that may be potential contributors to salinity tolerance in plants.

L'Oréal and UNESCO began their partnership in 1998, and since then have awarded the prestigious fellowships to more than 1,900 female scientists worldwide. The four fellowships awarded this year to women from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region underscore L'Oréal and UNESCO's commitment to the principle that "the world needs science and science needs women."

In recognizing Arab women scientists' outstanding commitment and contributions to science, the awards also acknowledge the importance of their work in the development of the region.

Sara Ravella, L'Oréal's Executive Vice-President of Communication, Sustainability and Public Affairs, noted the awards "celebrate great women scientists...[and] demonstrate the vital role women play in driving science and research."

Alshareef, who is supervised by KAUST Professor of Bioscience Mark Tester in the University's Center for Desert Agriculture, said the award is the first she has received and is "very important, as it will open many new future opportunities for me to apply for other prizes and grants." She added that the award "is not only important for me, but also for my lab, my research center and KAUST, as they have all given me much, and now is a time to reward them as well."

"Supporting women to develop careers in science is essential, and the L'Oréal initiative is to be applauded," said Prof. Tester. "Two young women from Biosciences in KAUST winning awards in this highly prestigious initiative is a great honor for them, and is also an excellent indication that KAUST is heading in the right direction in establishing high-quality research to contribute to the development of the region."

Prof. Pierre Magistretti, Dean of the Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division, added that the entire KAUST community is "proud of this recognition of two remarkable women scientists at different stages in their careers. This recognition should be of great encouragement for all female students enrolled at KAUST, and in particular those who have an interest in engaging in a scientific academic career."

By Caitlin Clark, KAUST News