Five women scientists in developing countries win 2018 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards

Published: Thursday 15th February 2018
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Early-career researchers living and working in Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ecuador, Guyana, and Indonesia have been recognized for their work in mathematics, physics and chemistry

Five researchers have been named winners of the 2018 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World for their research in the physical sciences. The winning scholars from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ecuador, Guyana, and Indonesia are being recognized for their accomplishments in applied mathematics, physics, theoretical and computational chemistry, environmental and material chemistry, and organometallic and coordination chemistry. As well as leading and mentoring young scientists in their respective disciplines, the scientists are also recognized for their commitment to improving lives and livelihoods in their communities and regions.

“These scientists are living proof that, if given the opportunities and support, women all over the developing world can become leaders in their field.  I salute them all and commend them for their commitment to their fields of study and to the improvement of the lives of men, women and children in their communities. They serve as role models for all young girls and women aspiring to achieve success in their fields,” said Jennifer Thomson, President of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD).

The five researchers are:

  • Hasibun Naher of BRAC University in Bangladesh (Central and South Asia Region); in applied mathematics;
  • Germaine Djuidje Kenmoe of the University of Yaounde 1 in Cameroon (Sub-Saharan Africa Region); in physics;
  • Silvia González Pérez of Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja in Ecuador (Latin America and the Caribbean Region); in theoretical and computational chemistry;
  • Dawn Iona Fox of the University of Guyana (Latin America and the Caribbean Region); in environmental and material chemistry; and
  • Witri Wahyu Lestari of the Universitas Sebelas Maret, Surakarta in Indonesia (East and South-East Asia and the Pacific Region); in organometallic and co-ordination chemistry.

“From tsunami simulation to improving energy efficiency and the quality of drinking water, these scientists are actively tackling some of the biggest challenges facing their communities,” added Ylann Schemm, Director of the Elsevier Foundation. “The Elsevier Foundation is proud to partner with OWSD and AAAS in celebrating the successes of these women, persevering in the face of often acute resource and gender-related challenges.”

The awards are part of a 7-year partnership between OWSD and the Elsevier Foundation. OWSD chairs a panel of distinguished scientists to select the winners, and the Elsevier Foundation supports a cash prize for each winner of USD $5,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting, this year in Austin, Texas, February 15-19, 2018. The five winners will be honored on 17 February at a special breakfast ceremony during the AAAS meeting.

Read more about the winners and get live updates from the awards on Saturday, February 17 on Elsevier Connect.

Notes to editors
The awards ceremony will take place on February 17, 2018 during the Minority and Women Scientists and Engineers Networking Breakfast from 7:00-9:00am in Austin, TX at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting.

Reporters wishing to attend the ceremony can contact Domiziana Francescon at +31 610215901 or

The 2018 winners are:

  • Hasibun Naher, Bangladesh in Applied mathematics: For her work in nonlinear partial differential equations. Dr. Naher’s significant academic contributions to this field have included her most recent work on tsunami simulation and her research on travelling waves. “This prestigious award makes me more confident that I will reach my goals, by doing research in various fields in collaboration with international scientists and researchers from developed countries,” said Dr. Naher. “Since my childhood I have always thought about how to motivate female students in STEM to help them have prosperous lives in developing countries. I hope this award helps me to fulfill my dream.”
  • Germaine Djuidje Kenmoe, Cameroon inPhysics: For her work on mechanics and the study of friction-and-wear processes on the molecular level, which has the potential for important applications in the area of energy efficiency. “Receiving the OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award means that my research has an impact in the international scientific community,” said Dr. Djuidje Kenmoe. “It will also help me to inspire younger girls to take up a career in physics.”
  • Silvia González Pérez, Ecuador inTheoretical and computational chemistry: For her research on heterogeneous catalysis in metal, bimetals, nanotubes and oxides. Dr. González Pérez performs molecular modelling of potential new materials that can be synthesized or purified from natural products. “Receiving the OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award is very important for the advancement of science in Ecuador,” said Dr. González Pérez. “Scientific work is hard in all places around the world, but even more so in countries in development. I hope this award gives confidence to Ecuadorian scientists, especially the youngest ones.”
  • Dawn Iona Fox, Guyana in Environmental and material chemistry: For her research on converting local waste products into value-added materials to solve environmental problems. Dr. Fox’s work has significant potential for national and regional impacts in the areas of environmental remediation and public health. Her current work is focused on improving drinking water quality at the household level for vulnerable communities and on ‘water-stress’ events such as floods, storms and hurricanes. “Winning the 2018 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award for Early-Career Women Scientists is both a validation and an encouragement to continue my work on using locally available and natural materials to create sustainable water treatment technology,” said Dr. Fox. “It also gives me the confidence to continue my advocacy and outreach to encourage girls and women to consider STEM careers.”
  • Witri Wahyu Lestari, Indonesia inOrganometallic and co-ordination chemistry: For her research on the synthesis of Metal-Organic Frameworks whose structures have widespread potential applications in areas such as molecular magnets, gas separation and storage, selective drug synthesis and delivery and environmental protection. “As a chemist, the award from OWSD and the Elsevier Foundation is like an additional catalyst for me to be more productive in work, conducting research, educating and inspiring my students,” said Dr. Lestari. “Providing benefits to society and humanity are also main goals for me.”

Reference sheets for each award winner with a more extensive biography and description of their work are also available upon request.

About OWSD
The Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) provides research training, career development and networking opportunities for women scientists throughout the developing world. Headed by eminent women scientists from the South, OWSD has more than 6,000 members and runs various programmes, including a PhD fellowship programme with over 200 successful graduates from Least Developed Countries and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as an Early Career Women Scientists fellowship programme launched in December 2017. OWSD is the first international forum to unite women scientists from the developing world with the objective of strengthening their role in the development process and promoting their representation in scientific and technological leadership. OWSD is affiliated with The World Academy of Science (TWAS), a programme unit of UNESCO, and is based in Trieste, Italy, with national chapters throughout the developing world.

About The Elsevier Foundation
The Elsevier Foundation provides grants to knowledge centered institutions around the world, with a sustainability focus on innovations in health information, diversity in STM, research in developing countries and technology for development. Since 2006, the Foundation has awarded more than 100 grants worth millions of dollars to non-profit organizations working in these fields. Through gift-matching, the Foundation also supports the efforts of Elsevier employees to play a positive role in their local and global communities. The Elsevier Foundation is a corporate not-for-profit 501(c)(3), funded by Elsevier, a global information analytics business.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps institutions and professionals advance healthcare, open science, and improve performance for the benefit of humanity. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirectScopusSciValClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, more than 35,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray’s Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a global provider of information and analytics for professionals and business customers across industries.

Media contacts
Domiziana Francescon, Program Officer
Elsevier Foundation
+31 610215901

Erin Johnson, Communications Officer
+39 040 2240 387

Tonya Blowers, Coordinator