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L'Oréal Fellowship Celebrates 20 Years, Awards Funding to Five Postdoctoral Scientists

A collage of five individual photos of young women smiling and crossing their arms
The 2023 L'Oréal For Women in Science fellows are Jessleen Kanwal, Caitlin Kowalski, Bria Macklin, Taylor Medwig-Kinney and Joscelyn Meijas. | L'Oréal USA

Five early-career female scientists have been named the 2023 L'Oréal For Women in Science fellows and will receive grants of $60,000 to fund their postdoctoral research as well as their outreach work to support and inspire women and girls to become the next generation of scientists. 

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the program, which has invested more than $5 million to advance the innovative research work of a cohort whose ranks now include 100 women. 

The 2023 L'Oréal For Women in Science fellows are: 

  • Jessleen Kanwal, a postdoctoral researcher in the biology and biological engineering department at the California Institute of Technology, who studies the neural mechanisms underlying interspecies social interactions. 

  • Caitlin Kowalski, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Oregon’s Institute of Ecology and Evolution, who studies how fungi residing on human skin shape the microbiome – and may confer protection against a common bacterial pathogen. 

  • Bria Macklin, a postdoctoral scholar at the Institute of Data Science and Biotechnology at the J. David Gladstone Institute, who studies cellular perturbations in neurons to enhance therapeutic genome editing in response to neurodegenerative diseases. 

  • Taylor Medwig-Kinney, a postdoctoral research associate in the biology department at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, who studies cell shape changes, using the nematode C. elegans to understand how developmental mechanisms can instigate morphogenesis. 

  • Joscelyn Meijas, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s Transitional Tissue Engineering Center, who uses engineering, computational and biological approaches to study the growth and development of uterine fibroids – benign tumors that can nonetheless cause significant quality-of-life issues. 

AAAS has partnered with L’Oréal USA since 2005 to manage the application process. As the administrator of the fellowship program, AAAS selects scientists to review applications from their field of expertise. AAAS then convenes a jury of scientists representing a range of disciplines selects the five fellows from among the finalists. 

“We are incredibly grateful for L’Oréal’s investment of more than $5M to women scientists in the postdoctoral stage of their careers,” said Travis York, director of Inclusive STEMM Ecosystems for Equity & Diversity at AAAS. “Together, we have ensured that 100 women have had the financial security and support to become the scientists they always dreamed of being and serving society through their research efforts.” 

Fellows are evaluated not only based on their intellectual merit, research potential and scientific excellence, but also on their commitment to supporting women and girls in science and serving as role models for the next generation of scientists.  

Accordingly, the fellows apply their funding not just toward laboratory supplies, conference travel and publication costs. Each fellow, all of whom have mentored and supported a number of more junior scientists, also plans to fund a research technician, assistant or intern, and many plan to develop or continue work on outreach projects that reach women or underrepresented minorities in science. 

“My academic career has thrived due to participation in STEM outreach programs aimed at increasing minority participation in research. Therefore, I have made it a priority to give back to these programs, throughout my academic career,” said Macklin in her community service statement. 

Said Medwig-Kinney in her statement, “As a woman in science, I understand the difference that having access to role models and supportive mentors can make. Therefore, I have been deeply committed to promoting the recruitment, retention, and visibility of women in STEM. In many ways, I stand on the shoulders of past women leaders.” 

The fellowship program is the U.S.-based component of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Awards, a global program that has supported 4,100 female scientists from 110 different countries since 1998. 

“L’Oréal USA is proud to recognize this 20th Anniversary milestone for the For Women In Science program,” said Marissa Pagnani McGowan, L’Oréal Groupe’s Chief Sustainability Officer for North America, in the company’s announcement of the fellows. “We are delighted to showcase this exceptional 2023 L’Oréal USA For Women in Science recipients and spotlight their outstanding contributions spanning a diverse array of fields. This 20th class of FWIS awardees will undoubtedly carry on a legacy of completing groundbreaking research and inspiring others to positively impact the world through their game-changing science.” 

The Nov. 13 announcement was followed by a week-long program of events and activities for the fellows: 

  • A symposium hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine (NASEM) on science communication and gender equity. 

  • A mentoring day for Washington, D.C.-area middle school students at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History that included a behind-the-scenes tour and a dialogue about the fellows’ journeys in science and the opportunities for young scientists 

  • A roundtable discussion hosted by UNESCO on women in science, science diplomacy and scientific cooperation. 

  • A Nov. 16 awards ceremony hosted by CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell, held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington D.C. 

In tandem with honoring the 2023 L'Oréal For Women in Science fellows, the application for the 2024 fellowship has launched and will close on January 26, 2024.


Andrea Korte

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