The L’Oréal USA For Women in Science fellowship program has awarded early-career female scientists and engineers $60,000 each to fund postdoctoral research over the next year.
The five winners were announced Sept. 25:
- Amber Alhadeff, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, seeks to understand the neural circuits and mechanisms that control food intake in order to provide insight on treating metabolic diseases like type II diabetes.
- Stacy Copp, a soft-matter physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, studies materials with potential applications in biomedical diagnostics, solar energy and energy-efficient lighting.
- Brecca Gaffney, a mechanical engineer at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, aims to improve treatment for patients rehabilitating after an injury or movement disorder.
- Fan Liu, a synthetic biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, studies how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.
- Elizabeth Trembath-Reichert, a geomicrobiologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, studies life in the deep biosphere to understand how life sustains itself in unforgiving conditions, research that could shed light on how life evolved on Earth and how it could exist beyond Earth.
“The For Women in Science program was created out of the belief that the world needs science and science needs women,” said Lauren Paige, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives at L’Oréal USA. Women only make up 24% of workers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and 14% of engineers in the United States, said L’Oréal USA. To help improve the representation of women in the scientific enterprise, L’Oréal USA has awarded more than $3.5 million in grants to 70 female scientists since the program’s inception in 2003.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science managed the application process and two rounds of reviews. Experienced scientists first review applications from candidates in their field, then a jury of multidisciplinary scientists select the five winners.
Fellows are selected not just for their research potential. Winners also demonstrate a commitment to supporting the inclusion of girls and women in STEM through mentoring, community service and other outreach efforts.
Gaffney, for instance, will partner with a St. Louis nonprofit to mentor low-income female high school students in math, science and reading proficiency. Copp will develop hands-on demonstrations for students in elementary, middle and high school. Several fellows also have pledged to dedicate some of the award funds toward hiring female undergraduate research assistants.
This year’s class of winning fellows will be honored at an awards ceremony on Oct. 25 at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. They also will take part in a host of events that week, including a roundtable discussion at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, a visit to Capitol Hill, a lab tour of L’Oréal USA’s Research & Innovation facility in New Jersey, an afternoon with representatives of the New York Academy of Science’s Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program, and an evening event open to the public in partnership with Invisibilia, NPR's science podcast.
AAAS also administers the Changing Face of STEM program that is an extension of the L’Oréal USA For Women in Science program. These awards, launched in 2016, support former fellows in their efforts to mentor and inspire girls and women in STEM.
The 2018 Changing the Face of STEM awards were announced in August. They award $2,500 each to 10 former fellows to support diverse projects such as an exchange program for U.S. and Tanzanian biomedical engineering students; a mentoring program to encourage community college students to pursue and complete four-year degrees in the sciences; and a roller-coaster construction contest for Girl Scouts to teach girls about physics and engineering.