The University of Manchester

Postdoctoral researcher wins prestigious Women in Science award for sustainable development

Dr Reem Swidah, a postdoctoral researcher at The University of Manchester, has been awarded the prestigious L’Oréal UNESCO Award for Women in Science for her work in sustainable development.

The awards celebrate outstanding women post-doctoral scientists, and forms part of the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science UK & Ireland Rising Talent Programme, which offers awards to promote, enhance and encourage the contribution of women pursuing their scientific research careers in the UK or Ireland.

Dr Swidah, a postdoctoral researcher at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, was one of five winners at the award at a ceremony at the House of Commons in London on Monday, 18 March.

Other winners were awarded in the categories of engineering, life sciences, mathematics and computing and physical science.

Reem said: “I am honoured to announce that I have been awarded the prestigious L’Oréal UNESCO Award for Women in Science in the category of Sustainable Development.  

“These awards are vital for supporting and celebrating women in science, offering recognition and inspiration. It provides financial research support, fosters networking and collaboration among recipients, and contributes to reducing gender disparities in STEM fields. By highlighting the achievements of women scientists, the award inspires future generations and advocates for gender equality in science.

“Programs like L’Oréal UNESCO  for women in science are critically important, providing vital recognition and support for women scientists while challenging prevailing stereotypes and biases.  Believe in yourself, defy stereotypes, continuously enhance your professional skills, and persist in pursuing your dreams. If opportunities don’t come your way, create your own path. Seek mentors, embrace learning, take risks, step out of your comfort zone, and surround yourself with supportive peers. Remember, diversity in STEM drives progress and innovation.

“This award will enable me to balance motherhood and research while gaining the necessary support to make a meaningful impact in my field.”

Reem received a £25,000 grant that is fully flexible and tenable at any UK or Irish university or research institute to support 12 months of research. Her work currently focuses on the genome minimization project (part of the Sc3.0 project initiative), focusing on genome minimization within the synthetic yeast strain (Sc2.0).

Reem was selected for the award for her drive and ambition to leverage her skills in synthetic biology to address global challenges and her work to harness the exceptional evolutionary abilities of synthetic yeast strains to develop innovative and cost-effective technologies to produce biofuels.

She believes that these advancements hold the potential to combat climate change and play a pivotal role in achieving the ambitious goal of Net Zero emissions by 2050, a key strategic objective of The University of Manchester.

She added: “This award will enhance childcare support for my baby and will afford me the time and financial resources to develop my professional skills. I intend to engage in one-to-one career coaching programs and leadership training, which will help me unlock my full potential and excel in my role, which I currently cannot do.

“The grant will also enable me to attend international conferences, where I can engage with scientists and stay updated on global challenges and solutions and it will help me to enhance my research independence by using the grant to purchase small equipment and to conduct essential experiments to boost my research objectives.”

The Women in Science National Rising Talents programme is run in partnership between L’Oréal UK and Ireland, the UK National Commission for UNESCO and the Irish National Commission for UNESCO, with the support of the Royal Society.

Thierry Cheval, L’Oréal UK and Ireland, Managing Director said: “As a company founded by a scientist over 100 years ago, L’Oréal, together with UNESCO, is committed to driving gender equality in STEM and recognising the exceptional work of female scientists who are vitally contributing to solving the challenges of tomorrow.

“Congratulations to this year’s Fellows who are a true inspiration for generations to come.”

Professor Anne Anderson, Chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO’s Board of Directors, added: “Congratulations to the 2024 Rising Talents. As we stand at a pivotal moment in time for scientific advancement, UNESCO continues to highlight the importance of true gender equality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and the vital role women play in a more equitable scientific society.

“The United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO is proud to support these young women in STEM from the UK & Ireland and celebrate their achievements as researchers paving the way for a brighter global future.”

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