Five women scientists in developing countries win 2021 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards

Published: Monday 8th February 2021
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Since 2013, the program has awarded and helped elevate the careers of 45 women researchers from 20 countries in the fields of biology, engineering and the physical sciences

Amsterdam, February 8, 2021

Five researchers have been named winners of the 2021 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World for their research in chemistry, mathematics and physics. The winning scholars from Ghana, Guatemala, Mongolia, Palestine and Sri Lanka are being recognized for their accomplishments in chemistry, physics and mathematics. The prize also acknowledges the scientists’ commitment to leading and mentoring young scientists and improving the quality of life of those in their communities and regions.

“Every year, when we select the awardees, we are simply blown away by what they have already achieved and their personal dedication to continuing to advance science in their home countries,” said OWSD President Jennifer Thomson. “We are happy to be able to contribute, even a small part, to the recognition they truly deserve.”

This year’s recipients are:

  • MarÍa Eugenia Cabrera Catalán of the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala; in particle physics.
  • Khongorzul Dorjgotov of the National University of Mongolia; in financial mathematics and mathematical modeling.
  • Ghada Dushaq of the New York University Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; in applied physics and nanotechnology.
  • Imalka Munaweera of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka; synthetic and nano-chemistry.
  • Marian Asantewah Nkansah of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology; in environmental remediation strategies.

Ylann Schemm, Director of the Elsevier Foundation said: “We know how important recognition and professional visibility are for developing high-profile international scientific careers. Over the years, we have also found that introducing our award winners to the AAAS Forum has given them vital access to international networks and scientific dialogue, while opening doors to new opportunities.”

First awarded in 2013, the awards are given in partnership by OWSD and the Elsevier Foundation. OWSD chairs a panel of distinguished scientists to select the winners, and the Foundation supports a cash prize for each winner of USD $5,000, including an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Due to the current circumstances, this year’s AAAS Annual Meeting will be held virtually.

The awards ceremony will take place on February 9, 2021 during the Minority and Women Scientists and Engineers Networking Breakfast from 1:00-3:00 PM EST.

Past OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award winners have been received by their country’s presidents and celebrated by local, national and international media. Many have gone on to receive other prestigious awards and fellowships including L’OREAL-UNESCO’s For Women in Science Fellowships and the British Council Award.

Read more about this year’s OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award here on Elsevier Connect.

Notes for editors
The 2021 winners are:

  • MarÍa Eugenia Cabrera Catalán in particle physics. For her work focusing on the study of physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics. In her research, she has been focusing on the phenomenological study of new physics models that propose solutions to open questions about the Higgs boson, which can help explain why the fundamental particles have mass, as well as questions about dark matter. “Receiving this award in recognition of my scientific career reinforces my commitment to create and support initiatives to strengthen research programs in Guatemala,” said Dr. Cabrera Catalán. “It empowers me to keep working, to show Guatemalans the importance of being part of a worldwide effort to create the conditions to produce and spread scientific knowledge and build better societies.”
  • Khongorzul Dorjgotov in financial mathematics and mathematical modeling. For her research in fractional calculus, differential equations, special functions, invariant solutions, mathematical modeling and financial mathematics. “There are equal opportunities to study at university and to work in the public or private sectors, but to get promoted and get involved in decision-making processes, then it becomes very difficult. I found it very hard to have my voice heard. Most people ignore women’s ideas and voices,” said Dr. Dorjgotov. “Now, I hope attitudes will change and my opinions will matter.”
  • Ghada Dushaq in applied physics and nanotechnology. For her work in solid state physics, applied physics, photonics and optoelectronics, nanotechnology and on optical materials and devices. She has developed a novel method for bandgap engineering using nanoindentation as a complete physical technique. “I am extremely honored to be receiving the 2021 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award,” said Dr. Dushaq. “It is truly rewarding to feel that all the hard work, dedication and devotion to my research has really paid off. Also, it motivates me to continue striving for excellence in my academic and professional pursuits and encourage young girls in advancement of their career.”
  • Imalka Munaweera in inorganic and materials-chemistry. For her work in the area of synthetic chemistry and materials specially in fabricating different functionalized materials, nanoparticles, nanocomposite for various industrial applications. She is also interested in nanotechnology for drug delivery/pharmaceutical applications, agricultural applications and water purification applications. “Winning this award is one of the biggest achievements in my life. Professionally, the prize makes me feel like I am an important person to the world as far as my research achievements are concerned, and I am so excited and motivated to conduct a lot of impactful research which brings solutions to the burning issues in the world. Also, the professional audience will warmly welcome me to conduct collaborative research since I am an OWSD-Elsevier Foundation prize winner” said Dr. Munaweera.
  • Marian Asantewah Nkansah in environmental remediation strategies. For her work on contaminants in water, food, soil, and the atmosphere. Remediation techniques are needed when there is no space for prevention and this is the right response in the case where, like Ghana, countries are suffering pollution from different sources and with different nature. Her research involves analytical sample preparation, determination of contamination levels  and interaction of contaminants in water, food, soil, the atmosphere and other environmental matrices. “This award is a huge endorsement of my scientific and professional endeavors. It is definitely going to further increase my visibility and offer more opportunities for growth and impact of my causes, including research on environmental contamination, mentorship and outreach.” said Dr. Nkansah.

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

Further information about previous Awardees:

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 programs, including a PhD fellowship programme with over 300 successful graduates from Least Developed Countries and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as an Early Career fellowship programme providing research grants of up to USD$50,000 in addition to leadership training. 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 program unit of UNESCO, and is based in Trieste, Italy, with national chapters throughout the developing world.

About The Elsevier Foundation
The Elsevier Foundation is a corporate not-for-profit 501(c)(3), funded by Elsevier, a global information analytics business specialized in science and health. Since 2006, the Elsevier Foundation provides over $1 million USD a year in grants to knowledge-centered institutions around the world, which address the UN Sustainable Development Goals through tech-enabled innovations in inclusive health and research. The Foundation offers a comprehensive matching gift and volunteering fund to enable employees to work with Foundation partners and support their communities. The Elsevier Foundation is part of Elsevier’s larger corporate responsibility program which centers on our unique contributions to sustainable development in gender, health, climate and reducing inequalities.

About Elsevier
As a global leader in information and analytics, Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. We do this by facilitating insights and critical decision-making for customers across the global research and health ecosystems.

In everything we publish, we uphold the highest standards of quality and integrity. We bring that same rigor to our information analytics solutions for researchers, health professionals, institutions and funders.

Elsevier employs 8,100 people worldwide. We have supported the work of our research and health partners for more than 140 years. Growing from our roots in publishing, we offer knowledge and valuable analytics that help our users make breakthroughs and drive societal progress. Digital solutions such as ScienceDirectScopusSciValClinicalKey and Sherpath support strategic research managementR&D performanceclinical decision support, and health education. Researchers and healthcare professionals rely on our 2,500+ digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell; our 40,000 eBook titles; and our iconic reference works, such as Gray’s Anatomy. With the Elsevier Foundation and our external Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board, we work in partnership with diverse stakeholders to advance inclusion and diversity in science, research and healthcare in developing countries and around the world.

Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.

Media contacts
Erin Johnson
OWSD Communications

Jonathan Davis
Elsevier Communications, Europe

The full press release is also available on the Elsevier website: “Five women scientists in developing countries win 2021 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards“.