Five exceptional scientists receive L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award


2017 L'Oréal-UNESCO Awards For Women in Science
© L'Oréal Foundation
23 March 2017

Tonight, the international scientific community gathered to honour and celebrate five exceptional women scientists and their accomplishments in the physical sciences during the 19th edition of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards Ceremony at the Maison de la Mutualité. The event was opened by a message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO and by Jean-Paul Agon, Chairman and CEO of L’Oréal and Chairman of the L’Oréal Foundation.

Each and every UNESCO L’Oréal Laureate is an inspiration to me and to girls and to women across the world to work harder to promote and recognize the contribution of women to science” said Irina Bokova in her message. “Each shows us that humanity as a whole cannot prosper with only 50% of its creative genius – this is not right, and it’s not smart either (…) This is really a call to action, for every girl and every woman to be empowered at every level – in learning, in research, in administration and in teaching, across all scientific fields.”

Jean-Paul Agon highlighted the power of these women scientists, as well as all of the women scientists who have been celebrated this year, in his opening speech: “Only a shared, controlled science, at the service of the world’s population, is able to meet the major challenges of the twenty-first century, and our researchers are the proof. They are the ones that give science all its greatness”.

The 2017 Edition of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards Ceremony celebrated 5 eminent women scientists and their excellence, creativity and intelligence. Each woman received an Award of 100,000 € to commend their scientific contributions in the fields of quantum physics, physical sciences and astrophysics. The Awards are presented every year to five women, one from each world region (Africa and the Arab States, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America). Each scientist has had a unique career path combining exceptional talent, a deep commitment to her profession and remarkable courage in a field still largely dominated by men.

These 5 exceptional women are each contributing in their own way to change the world for the better. 

Africa and the Arab States

Professor Niveen KHASHAB
Associate Professor of Chemical Sciences and Engineering, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia

Analytical chemistry
For designing novel nanoparticles that could improve early detection of disease.”

Asia / Pacific 

Professor Michelle SIMMONS
Professor, Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology - University of New South Wales, Australia

Quantum physics
For pioneering ultra-fast quantum computers.”


Professor Nicola SPALDIN
Professor and Chair of Materials Theory, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

Solid state physics
For reinventing magnetic materials for next-generation electronic devices.”

Latin America

Professor Maria Teresa RUIZ
Professor, Department of Astronomy, Dept. / Universidad de Chile, Chile

For her contributions to the study of a variety of faint celestial objects hidden in the darkness of the universe.

North America  

Professor Zhenan BAO
Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, USA

Material Chemistry
For inventing skin-inspired electronic materials.

The 15 International Rising Talents who received fellowships in the framework of this 19th edition of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme also participated in the ceremony.

2017 International Rising Talents of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme
2017 International Rising Talents of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme
© Fondation L'Oréal

The 2017 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards

Since 1998, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation and UNESCO have been committed to increase the number of women working in scientific research. 150 years after Marie Curie’s birth, only 28%* of researchers are women and only 3% of Scientific Nobel Prizes are awarded to them. That is why, for the past 19 years, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme has worked to honour and accompany women researchers at key moments in their careers. Since the programme began, it has supported more than 2,700 young women from 115 countries and celebrated 97 Laureates, at the peak of their careers, including professors Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Ada Yonath, who went on to win a Nobel Prize.


About the L’Oréal Foundation
Accompany. Value. Communicate. Support. Move boundaries. The convictions, the core values which drive the L’Oréal Foundation’s commitment to women everyday. A commitment divided into two main areas - science and beauty.
Through its’ For Women in Science programme, a worldwide partnership with UNESCO, the L’Oréal Foundation motivates girls in High School to pursue scientific careers, supports women researchers and rewards excellence in a field where women remain underrepresented.
Through its beauty programmes, the Foundation assists women affected by illness, who are economically disadvantaged or isolated, to recover their sense of self-esteem and femininity in order to feel better and to fare better. Its’ actions also include providing training programs for beauty industry professions.

Since its creation in 1945, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization has been supporting international scientific cooperation as a catalyst for sustainable development and peace. UNESCO assists countries in the development of public policies and in building capabilities in the fields of science, technology, innovation and scientific education. In addition, UNESCO leads several intergovernmental programmes for the sustainable management of freshwater, ocean and terrestrial resources, the protection of biodiversity and the promotion of the role of science in combating climate change and handling natural disasters. To meet these goals, UNESCO is committed to ending discrimination and promoting equality between women and men.