Let’s pretend that you are a little girl who is fascinated with the natural world: molecular structures speak to you, prisms are oh-so-cool, and concepts like plasma and matter are simply fascinating. You’re not the kind to turn to Hollywood’s celebrities to find role models: you’d rather get your inspiration from Richard Feynman or Madame Curie.
But you’re also not a “geek” in the traditional sense. You like to be cool. You wear dresses, and you like to look like a girl, and not some stereotypical lab technician with a white coat and glasses. So who do you turn to for a role model? Who do you identify with to inspire, uplift, and educate you?
Enter the L’Oreal USA Fellowships For Women in Science program. Now in its 9th year, the program is a national initiative that recognizes 5 U.S. based female post-doctoral researchers, who are pursuing careers in the physical and material sciences (including math, engineering and computer science). The grant recipients receive up to $60,000 each to support their postdoctoral research.
This year’s honorees were recognized at an annual awards ceremony that featured Christine Quinn, the first female Speaker of the New York City Council, as keynote speaker. Quinn pointed out the need for more female role models, especially in the sciences. L’Oreal’s initiative clearly sets a good precedent.
The For Women in Science program attracts applicants in diverse scientific fields from all over the country. A two-stage review process involves a jury of eminent scientists and engineers, who make the ultimate awards decision. The winners then participate in a week of events, including professional development workshops, media training, networking opportunities, and the awards ceremony.
This year’s recipients include Dr. Christina Agapakis (Synthetic Biology), Dr. Lillian Childress (Physics), Dr. Joanna Kelley (Genetics), Dr. Erin Marie Williams (Anthropology), and Dr. Jaclyn Winter (Biochemistry). These well-dressed and eloquent women spoke about how science was their absolute passion, even when they were young girls. For her PhD., Dr. Winter studied the genetic structure of bacteria in vitro. To a layman, she’s trying to find out how natural bacteria and their scaffold/blueprint can benefit human beings, and possibly lead to new and natural cures for diseases.
What’s also exciting is L’Oreal’s new For Girls in Science web site launch. Designed for girls who are excited by and want to explore the natural world that surrounds them, the new For Girls in Science web site showcases role models and ways to make “what ifs” possible.
The L’Oreal USA Fellowships For Women in Science is a national extension of the global L’Oreal–UNESCO For Women in Science program, which, since 1998, has recognized 67 Laureates, two of whom received the Nobel Prize in 2009. The program has become a benchmark of scientific excellence on an international scale, celebrating the contributions of scientific women each year.