To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, taking place at Expo 2020 Dubai, the Fondation L’Oréal and UNESCO hosted the first For Women in Science Young Talents Awards Ceremony for MENA.

L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in ScienceThe event took place to honour and recognise 14 Arab female scientists from the MENA region for their groundbreaking research in the fields of Life and Environmental Sciences, Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Sciences. This programme is part of L’Oréal-UNESCO’s global For Women in Science initiative that has recognised over 3,900 phenomenal researchers and 122 Laureates from more than 110 countries and regions since its inception in 1998.

The ceremony awarded 14 young talents – five from various countries in the GCC, three from Egypt and six from Levant – in the PhD students and post-doctorate researchers categories, underscoring their role in solving today’s challenges as well as inspiring the future generation of females.

Two of the winners are from Qatar:

  • Dr Nura Adam Mohamed, a Somali resident of Qatar, and Research Associate at the Biomedical Research Center (BRC) at Qatar University (QU):
    For her research on developing non-conventional, novel therapeutic tools to prevent the development of diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Arij Yehya, a Lebanese resident of Qatar, and full-time faculty member at Qatar University (QU):
    For her research on identifying factors that drive the widening of the gender gap in personality traits to further evaluate current and future gender policies.
Dr Nura Adam Mohamed

About her research, Mohamed said, ‘Diabetes is one of the most common chronic metabolic disorders in Qatar, the Gulf region and the world, and cardiovascular complications are the most common complications of diabetes. Studies have shown that uncontrolled and persistent metabolic abnormalities caused by diabetes lead to many damages to large and small blood vessels eventually causing many cardiovascular diseases. This shows the importance of developing non-traditional therapeutic tools. Therefore, my research focuses on developing nanoformulations and using them as drug carriers that in addition to transporting diabetes drugs have properties that enable them to reduce cardiovascular complications.’

Arij Yehya

About her research, Yehya said, ‘Culture is an important part of who we are as human beings. When I first learned of the widening gender gap when it comes to personality traits, I felt that this research is vital for our understanding of the social factors such as economic development of the country’s influence on individual personality traits. Currently, I am conducting two studies; one within cultures and another across cultures.’

The event also welcomed a group of esteemed panellists to discuss how Arab female scientists are breaking through barriers and inspiring the next generation of leaders and changemakers. The panellists included HE Dr Nawal Al Hosany, the Permanent Representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Dr Anna Paolini, Director of UNESCO Office in Doha and Representative for the Gulf and Yemen, and Rana El Chemaitelly, the Founder and CEO of ‘The Little Engineer’. The panel was moderated by Alexandra Palt, Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer and CEO of the Fondation L’Oréal.

Based on the conviction that the world needs science and science needs women, the Fondation L’Oréal and UNESCO are committed to the promotion of women in science to make them more visible, to make their talent known and to inspire careers for future generations.

According to the latest UNESCO Science Report published in June 2021, although the number of women in scientific careers is increasing, reaching just over 33% of researchers worldwide, this evolution is still too slow.

In the various MENA countries, while gender parity is almost reached at the PhD level or at the start of a scientific career, there are still strong disparities to be observed depending on the countries and the disciplines. The glass ceiling remains a reality in research: the number of female researchers decreases as they access higher levels in their careers due to tremendous obstacles and barriers.

‘L’Oréal and UNESCO have been great advocates for the contributions women are making to the STEM sector,” said HE Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri. ‘By recognising and rewarding the vital role female scientists play in advancing knowledge in so many fields, they are not only inspiring new generations of young women to pursue careers in science and research but fostering a more inclusive, more representative scientific community.’

HE added, ‘The 14 exceptional scientists being honoured at this year’s event, the first to be held in our region, are drawn from a wide array of disciplines, from life and environmental sciences to mathematics and computer sciences. This is a reflection of both the breadth of talent in the Middle East and the increasing opportunities for women here to apply it. As we move to a knowledge-based economy, a world where science and technology are increasingly front and centre, it is essential the whole of humanity is able to play a role in shaping it.’

Alexandra Palt, Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer and CEO of the Fondation L’Oréal, said, ‘Women have shown more than ever that they are necessary in every possible field of research. Their contribution to science is vital as we thrive to build a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive world. But too often, their roles are being limited by gender biases and other obstacles. Through the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Program, we aim to improve the representation of women in STEM, to drive global impact by empowering more female scientists to achieve excellence at different stages of their careers and to encourage their participation in solving the great challenges of our time for the benefit of all.’

About the 2021 MENA Young Talents

PhD students:

  • Arij Yehya (Qatar): For her research on identifying factors that drive the widening of the gender gap in personality traits to further evaluate current and future gender policies.
  • Halima Alnaqbi (UAE): For her research on enhancing the existing organ transplantation system to include Arab ethnic groups.
  • Rachel Njeim (Lebanon): For her research on the contribution of NETosis to the pathogenesis of Diabetic Kidney Disease.
  • Sama Hassan Ali Rahmatullah (Iraq): For her research on anti-pollution caused by genetic variation of plants associated with soil contaminated of petroleum hydrocarbons.
  • Sarah Abdelkader (Egypt): For her research on on-site sustainable treatment methods for agricultural wastewater treatment to be reused in irrigation.

Post-doctorate researchers:

  • Ghada Dushaq (UAE): For her research on discovering novel materials and structures across photonics to enhance the speed, capacity and accuracy of conventional technologies.
  • Hend Alqaderi (Kuwait): For her research on the use of oral fluids as a non-invasive diagnostic tool for early diagnosis and disease management of COVID-19 and other inflammatory diseases.
  • Nura Adam Mohamed (Qatar): For her research on developing nonconventional, novel therapeutic tools to prevent the development of diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Ingy Ibrahim Abdallah (Egypt): For her research on overcoming receptor mutations in cancer targeted therapy.
  • Irene Samy Fahim Gabriel (Egypt): For her research on manufacturing of Sugarcane Bagasse-Based tableware in Egypt.
  • Heba Alzaben (Jordan): For her research on the use of thermal remote sensing to monitor ecosystem health.
  • Hiba N. Rajha (Lebanon): For her research on food waste valorisation through incorporation and nanoencapsulation of grape skin polyphenols in various cosmetic products.
  • Nirmeen Elmadany (Palestine): For her research on targeting immunosuppressive proteins in Glioblastoma Microenvironment for better tumour response to immunotherapy.
  • Waad Saftly (Syria): For her research on galaxy evolution through the history of the universe.

‘This award will also help me represent female researchers in Qatar, the Gulf area and the Middle East. It also allows me to set an example for others as well as enable me to build collaborative relationships with world-leading scientists in the field of nanomedicine in both cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,’ said Mohamed.

‘I also believe that it is an important milestone in my career as it not only provides me with the support to conduct further research but it will also help broaden my network within and outside the scientific community in order to shed light on the importance of understanding the science behind the psychology of individuals and cultures,’ said Yehya.

Since its inception in the region in 2010, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Young Talents programme has awarded more than 160 female scientists and 11 Laureates from MENA. Among them, 16 Arab female scientists have also won additional international recognition through the International Rising Talent programme.

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