NEW YORK — The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science partnership has announced the five women scientists from around the world who will receive the 2012 L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards in Life Sciences.
An international network of nearly 1,000 scientists nominates the candidates for each year’s awards. An independent, international jury then selects the five laureates. Faced with such global issues as diminishing resources, increasing and aging populations, and the consequent medical and social challenges, L’Oréal and UNESCO are convinced that these female researchers will have a major impact on society.
NORTH AMERICAN LAUREATE
The 2012 laureate for North America is professor Bonnie Bassler, Howard Hughes Medical Institute principal investigator, Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J. Bassler is a world-renowned expert on how bacteria “talk” to each other using a chemical language in order to coordinate their behavior as a group. Bassler was selected for her work in understanding chemical communication between bacteria and opening up new doors for treating infections.
“By understanding the process of how bacteria communicate with one another, enabling them to function as a unit, we are gaining new insight into the study of the spread of infectious disease,” Bassler stated. “My hope is that by developing antibacterial therapies to interfere with the communication process, we will be better able to combat bacterial infections.”
Bassler earned a PhD in biochemistry from Johns Hopkins University in 1990, and performed postdoctoral work in microbial genetics at the Agouran Institute in La Jolla, Calif. She joined the Princeton University faculty in 1994, and became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in 2005. A year later she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007. Bassler is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the MacArthur Foundation and the American Society for Microbiology.
Along with Bassler, the other laureates recognized for their scientific achievements are:
AFRICA and ARAB STATES
Professor Jill Farrant — Research chair, plant molecular physiology, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town, South Africa. For discovering how plants survive under dry conditions.
ASIA / PACIFIC
Professor Ingrid Scheffer — Chair of paediatric neurology research, University of Melbourne, Australia. For identifying genes involved in some forms of epilepsy.
Professor Frances Ashcroft — Royal Society research professor, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, Oxford University, United Kingdom. For advancing the understanding of insulin secretion and of neonatal diabetes.
Professor Susana Lopez — Developmental genetics and molecular physiology, Department of the Institute of Biotechnology, National University of Mexico, Cuernavaca, Mexico. For identifying how rotaviruses cause the death of 600,000 children each year.
The awards ceremony will take place on March 22, 2012, at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Each laureate receives $100,000 in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of science.