The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science programme recognises South African female scientists for their groundbreaking research

JOHANNESBURG12th November 2019  L'Oréal South Africa awards research grants to seven exceptional young women scientists

The first edition of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science South African National Programme, highlights L'Oréal’s strong commitment to South African female scientists and its ambition to contribute to the development of scientific excellence.

The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science initiative began 21 years ago and has supported and raised the profile of 107 laureates and more than 3,100 talented young doctoral and post-doctoral scientists, providing research grants in 117 countries.

The sub-Saharan Africa regional programme saw significant growth since it’s inception in 2010. With the vision of reaching more female scientists across Africa,  the first edition of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science South African National Young Talents programme was launched, this year.

Today, there are simply not enough women scientists in Africa to drive change at the scale at which it is needed.  Science and technology are among the principle keys to addressing these challenges. It is vital that women and men are empowered to contribute fully and equally to the development of solutions, foster innovation and enrich locally relevant research,”  explains Gilles Antoine, Country Manager of L’Oreal South Africa.

The world continues to face unprecedented challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, exposure to illnesses and challenges with food security, among other issues. Women in science can change the world. They have the power to change the world provided they are given the means. This year, as we honour seven emerging women scientists from across South Africa, we reaffirm our commitment to empowering more young women scientists, so that they receive the recognition they deserve,” he concludes.

An Exceptional Initiative to Empower Seven Young South African Researchers

The seven female researchers  – five doctoral and two post-doctoral – were selected for the scientific excellence of their work from over 175  applicants, by a jury of independent experts.

The winners will travel to Dakar, Senegal to attend the sub-Saharan Africa regional programme leadership training and ceremony. They will benefit from a training programme that will help strengthen their career. The objective is to empower them to pursue their career and break the glass ceiling more easily.

These female researchers were awarded a research grant at a ceremony in Johannesburg on Thursday night in front of a distinguished audience. This entire initiative serves one goal; highlight scientific excellence of female researchers in South Africa, in order to create role models, encourage other young women to become scientists and empower women to shape the future of the continent.

Learn More About the Winners

PhD candidates

Each PhD candidate will receive a research grant of R80 000  

Dr Yogandree Ramsamy

Department of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal 

Triangulating the Molecular Epidemiology of Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae from Humans, Food, Animals and the Environment

Antibiotics are used in animals for food production and treating infections. In human health, they are used in the prevention and management of infectious disease. Dr Ramsamy is researching antibiotics resistance in the one health context. Her research will assist in saving antimicrobials for future generations to fight infectious diseases globally

Shantelle Claassen

Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town 

Nasopharyngeal bacterial community profiles as a biomarker for Lower Respiratory Tract Infections (LRTI) during infancy

Shantelle is contributing to research focused on enhanced detection of pathogenic microorganisms to improve the aetiological diagnosis of Lower Respiratory Tract Infections (LRTIs). LRTIs, in particular pneumonia remains the biggest killer of children under five. The primary victims are children from sub-Saharan African countries.

Chelsea Tucker

Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town

Designing a catalyst with improved fuel selectivity for decentralized waste-to-fuel production in Africa 

Chelsea is designing a simpler way to convert organic waste to fuel using a South African grown technique called the Fischer-Tropsch process. Decentralising diesel production would vastly improve energy security in the region and become a revenue source for marginalised communities.

Emma Platts

Department of Mathematics & Applied Mathematics, University of Cape Town

Machine Learning and Data Clustering Techniques to Probe Fast Radio Bursts and Constrain Cosmological Parameters

Emma’s background is in theoretical cosmology, but two things drew her to practical work in astrophysics for her PhD: the rise of machine learning and data science; and the enormous advancements in telescope sensitivity and design. Of particular interest to her, are Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) described as very bright and brief radio signals that emanate from outside our galaxy. She is using mathematical and computational techniques to analyse astronomical signals. This will help determine the distribution of matter in our galaxy.

Sinenhlanhla Sikhosana

College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Diffuse Radio Emission in Atacama Cosmology Telescope's polarimetric extension Clusters

Sinenhlanhla uses radio telescopes to observe galaxy clusters. These are a large group of galaxies, like our Milky Way, bound together by gravity. The data collected by telescopes is used to study the physical processes occurring within the clusters. Her research entails understanding high-energy particle physics on large-scale structures in the universe. The methods used will shed light on how to handle image processing using big data.

Post-Doctoral Researchers 

Each post-doctoral award winner will receive a research grant of R160 000 

Dr Melissa Nel

Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town 

Investigating the genetic basis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in subjects of African genetic ancestry

The cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is unknown and there is no effective treatment for this disease. Sufferers are condemned to a poor quality of life and a dismal prognosis usually succumbing to death from respiratory failure within three years of symptom onset. Dr Nel is establishing a Neuromuscular Disease & Genomic Medicine Research Group. The aim is to understand the genetic factors which predispose an individual to developing ALS. She hopes to use her unique skillset to identify ALS susceptibility genes in Africans.

Dr Busiswa Ndaba 

Institute for Soil, Climate and Water, Agricultural Research Council

Sustainable production and application of nanofertilizers through the adoption of biosynthesis approach

Dr Ndaba is investigating sustainable production and application of nanofertilizers through the adoption of biosynthesis approach using plant extracts in place of chemicals. This project can go a long way in assisting crop producers with alternative methods to increase their crop growth. This will in turn form part of the world’s sustainable developmental goals, aimed at “no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being”.


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