L'Oréal USA and AAAS Honor Early-Career Women Scientists

Arpita Bose, now a microbiologist at Harvard University, fell in love with microbes in 9th grade, when she looked at a seemingly blank slide under the microscope and saw that it was teeming with microbial life.

"Microbes are indeed the unseen majority, and I have been exposed to various good and bad things they can do in the real world over the course of my studies. We recognize now more than ever that microbes might hold the key to provide an energy secure future for posterity, and it is my sincere hope that our efforts as a unified scientific community would make that a reality," she said.

Bose and four other women scientists are recipients of the 2013 L'Oréal USA Fellowships For Women in Science. Celebrating its tenth year, the program is a national initiative that annually recognizes and rewards five outstanding U.S.-based women researchers at the start of their careers. Recipients each receive up to $60,000 towards their postdoctoral research.

AAAS manages application solicitation and the peer-review process by which the Fellows are selected. It also facilitates professional development workshops and helps the honorees build networks with accomplished female leaders in corporate, academic, government, and scientific fields.

"Through our partnership with L'Oréal USA and its Fellowships For Women In Science Program, we are offering young women opportunities to be the next leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is so important to support early-career women to improve diversity in the sciences, as well as offer women the platform to make significant changes in the STEM workforce," said Shirley Malcom, director of Education and Human Resources at AAAS.

The 2013 Fellows were selected from a competitive pool of over 350 candidates by an interdisciplinary review panel and a distinguished jury of eminent scientists and researchers and L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Laureates. The Fellows were chosen based on specific criteria, including exceptional academic records, intellectual merit, clearly articulated research proposals with the potential for scientific advancement, and outstanding letters of recommendation.

The new Fellows are being honored at an awards ceremony on Thursday, 24 October, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The Fellows are:

Arpita Bose

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks

Anisa Salim Ismail

Arpita Bose, Harvard University, Microbiologist. Dr. Bose studies unusual microbes that respire iron while using light to grow in nature. Her work suggests that these organisms harbor pathways to potentially generate biologically derived fuels. The L'Oréal USA Fellowships For Women in Science award will allow the continuation of research that can potentially provide solutions to the ever-growing energy crisis while also expanding the understanding of how microbes affect global geocycles.

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks, Princeton University, Chemical and Biological Engineering. Dr. Whittaker-Brooks and her team have been able to revolutionize the materials science field by synthesizing nanoscaled materials for use in electronics, window coatings, sensing devices, and photovoltaics. The L'Oréal USA Fellowships for Women in Science award will support the rational design and implementation of thermoelectric materials to be used as solar-thermal generators in photovoltaics that are more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. The thermoelectric materials Dr. Whittaker-Brooks synthesizes could be a boon for several applications ranging from power generation to microprocessor cooling which would potentially solve energy issues in the world.

Anisa Salim Ismail, Princeton University, Molecular Biology. Mammals have coevolved with vast populations of commensal (friendly) bacteria, the majority of which are found in the intestine. Even though maintaining friendly relationships with commensal bacteria is critical to human health, the exact mechanisms that regulate this relationship are still not fully understood. Dr. Ismail will use the L'Oréal USA Fellowships For Women in Science award to establish mouse models to study the possibility that commensals and mammalian cells "talk" to each other, through a process called quorum sensing, to establish the beneficial relationships shared in the intestine.

Robin Evans Stanley

Mary Caswell Stoddard

Robin Evans Stanley, National Institutes of Health, Biochemistry. Dr. Stanley's research goal is to understand the regulation of autophagy. Autophagy is a cellular pathway involved in the recycling of cytosolic components such as proteins and organelles. Dysfunction of this pathway has been linked to many human diseases including cancer and neurodegeneration. The L'Oréal USA Fellowships for Women in Science award will provide essential support for the continuation of research at the NIH, where Dr. Stanley will focus on characterizing the structures of complexes involved in the early stages of autophagy.

Mary Caswell Stoddard, Harvard University, Evolutionary Biologist and Ornithologist. Dr. Stoddard's multidisciplinary research program explores key questions in avian evolution and behavior, with projects ranging from avian vision and feather coloration to egg mimicry by common cuckoos. The L'Oréal USA Fellowships For Women In Science award will enable Dr. Stoddard to pursue innovative research on the evolution and engineering of avian eggs. Dr. Stoddard will combine techniques from computer science, genomics and biomineralization to investigate how birds evolved eggshells with diverse structures and special mechanical properties, with the goal of contributing to new tools and advanced materials inspired by eggs.

The L'Oréal USA Fellowships for Women in Science program has awarded grants to 45 post-doctoral women scientists in the life and physical/material sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer science since its launch in 2003.

L'Oréal USA Fellowships For Women In Science is a national extension of the global L'Oréal – UNESCO For Women in Science program, which, since 1998, has honored 77 Laureates, including two who subsequently were awarded the Nobel Prize. The program has also supported more than 1,652 international Fellows who have made contributions in every field of scientific research. By the end of 2013, a total of 1,729 women scientists from over 100 countries will have benefitted from the program.