Suzana Nunes named L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Laureate

Professor Nunes' research interests are new polymeric materials for membrane manufacture, characterization and application

KAUST is proud to announce that Suzana Nunes, Professor of Chemical and Environmental Science and Engineering and Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs, has been named a 2023 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Laureate. Created in 1998, the award recognizes annually five eminent female scientists for their outstanding research and impact. Prof. Nunes is the Laureate for Africa and the Arab States and was recognized for her work in chemistry, specifically in the development of nanomaterials for molecule separation with a low carbon footprint.

Manufacturing processes, be it fuel, plastics or pharmaceuticals, involve a number of steps including the separation of desired molecules from a heterogeneous mixture. However, the separation step is one of the most energy-consuming. Prof. Nunes is synthesizing membranes with nanopores that significantly reduce energy demands, a critical achievement in realizing Saudi Arabia’s goal of a sustainable economy.

Having built her career mastering macromolecule thermodynamics, Nunes is an international leader in the field. The membranes designed from her work are expected to change the industry.

“She is inspiring the next generation of scientists to pursue research in environmental sustainability through her creative work and her leadership initiatives,” said UNESCO Deputy Director-General Xing Qu.

Along with excellent science, Nunes exemplifies the people of KAUST. She held a faculty position in Brazil and was the head of a research department in Germany before joining KAUST in 2009.

“The world needs diversity. It is not only about women and men. We must also count on the solutions and experiences of different nationalities and of people with different creative ways of thinking. Luckily, KAUST is a place where diversity has been promoted from day one,” she said.

While research is at the heart of her work, Nunes says that her motivation comes from having an impact.

“A positive impact on people, the Kingdom, education. At this point it is beyond research,” she said.

For this same reason, she hopes the award will inspire people in the Kingdom and encourage people to consider it for their scientific careers.

“This is a prestigious award, not only for me. It also celebrates the support that the Kingdom is dedicating to women in science and business. The Kingdom has amazing women with talent, strength and motivation,” she added.

Nunes is among five outstanding women scientists honored for their achievements. Together, the awardees represent different global regions, with Nunes winning the award for Africa and the Arab States. The other regions include Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean and North America. The International Awards will be presented at UNESCO Headquarters on Thursday, June 15, 2023, at a ceremony in the presence of Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay and Fondation L'Oréal Président Jean-Paul Agon.