Chilean scientists honored with 2013 Women in Science award

Two Chilean women take prestigious award for distinguished female scientists around the globe and a handsome paycheck to help them continue their research.

The impressive scientific research of two young Chilean PhD candidates has been recognized by the prestigious For Women in Science prize. Running for more than 15 years, the award is a joint initiative between the L’Oreal Foundation and UNESCO that aims to recognize and encourage the work of women in various scientific fields. The award is given to exceptional researchers around the world who are dedicated to the advancement of science.

The award’s organizers believe that the acceleration in the development of new technologies in the 21st century requires the contribution of women as well as men in making major discoveries and creating knowledge. So far under the scheme, over 1,000 women, both established professionals as well as young researchers, have been recognized globally.

The L’Oreal Chile-UNESCO For Women in Science award was launched in 2007 in partnership with Chile’s National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONYCIT).

Exclusive to the Andean nation, this award welcomes the participation of female Chilean scientists working towards doctorates in the life and material sciences.

The 2013 winners include Bioinformatics engineer Ariela Vergara Jaque — working towards a PhD in Applied Sciences at the Universidad de Talca — and María José Barrera a PhD candidate in Biomedical science at the Universidad de Chile Medical School. Vergara is researching the applications of nanotechnology in medicine, while José is investigating the causes of Sjögren’s syndrome.

In addition to the international recognition of the award, each will receive US$13,860 (CLP 7,000,000) to support their doctoral theses. The women were selected as experts in their fields by a special panel of acclaimed individuals from a wide range of scientific fields. The jury was chaired by Professor Gloria Montenegro of Universidad Católica, who herself won the international award in 1998.

Meanwhile, a jury of eminent members of the scientific community around the world, chaired by Nobel Prize winners, selected this year’s recipients. The awards were given to five women, each representing a global region: Africa & the Arab States, Latin America, North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Among inspiring feats of these women are contributions to understanding climate change; findings regarding water’s unusual and unexpected behavior; and the modification of electron microscopes so that chemical processes at the atomic level can be seen.

By Daphne Karnezis