A night at the museum was fitting for L’Oréal USA’s 10th annual Fellowships for Women in Science award ceremony.
Held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on Oct. 24, five distinguished female scientists were honored out of more than 350 applicants, the most entries that L’Oréal has received in a decade. Each recipient was granted up to $60,000 to help fund their research. Together, L’Oréal and the American Association for the Advancement of Science selected the fellows based on academic records, intellectual merit, research proposals with the potential for scientific advancement and outstanding letters of recommendation.
“I’ve been a commissioner at the FCC for about a year and a half,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, who opened the ceremony proceedings.
“One of the things I’ve noticed during my tenure, there are just too few women in technology and science and engineering. The fellowship recipients tonight are the new faces of science. If you have an image of people sitting in laboratories under fluorescent lights and if it is the kind of career that young girls want to pursue, I think they put a new face on it.” The recipients participate in a week of events that include an awards ceremony, professional development workshops, media training and networking opportunities.
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Frédéric Rozé, president and chief executive officer of L’Oréal USA, said the Women in Science program is near the heart of the company’s research effort. “It’s funded by scientists and science is at the core of beauty.”
This year’s fellows were Dr. Arpita Bose, a microbiologist from Harvard University; Dr. Luisa Whittaker-Brooks, a chemical and biological engineer from Princeton University; Dr. Anisa Salim Ismail, a molecular biologist from Princeton University; Dr. Robin Evans Stanley, a biochemist from the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Mary Caswell Stoddard, a evolutionary biologist and ornithologist at Harvard.
For her area of study, Bose’s research explores microbes, which she claims may hold the key to the energy crisis.
“What I have been working on for the past 10 years is to engineer and use natural trains of bacteria that can produce biofuels that are very similar to gasoline,” said Bose. “The idea is that as gas prices are going up, fossil fuel reserves are going down.”
Meanwhile, Whittaker-Brooks focuses on making materials for flexible electronics to mold into different applicators and uses.
“Let’s say that you go for a run and you want to charge your phone,” said Whittaker-Brooks, “then I can create an energy wristband that will charge up your phone for you. And in order to do that I need to come up with renewable sources such as solar power.”
Salim Ismail explores how bacteria cells talk to each other and how humans have trillions of beneficial bacteria cells in their bodies without making them sick.
“I think our intestinal cells can talk to the bacteria inside of us, using the same language that bacteria [cells] use to talk to each other,” she said.
Evans Stanley is investigating the structure of proteins and other organisms that exists in human cells.
“I study a pathway in the cells called autophagy, which literally means self-eating,” said Stanley. “It’s a process where the cell can digest part of itself. If a cell is starving and running out of nutrients, it can help recycle cellular material.”
And Caswell Stoddard studies birds and is currently focusing on bird eggs and the fine crystal structure of eggshells.
“We see birds in our backyard all the time, but we don’t understand all that much about their eggs,” said Stoddard. “I’m very interested in how they evolved into egg shapes, colors and patterns, so for that work I take an engineering perspective.”