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Six Italians under 35 are awarded with the L’Oréal-Unesco “For Women and Science” prize

ROME, JUNE 17th- From physics to medicine, from climate research to biotechnology: the six winners of the Italian edition of the L’Oréal-Unesco Prize “For Women and Science” were honoured today, in the presence of Minister Elena Bonetti. Each of the under-35 female scientists (selected from 320 applications) received a 20,000-euro scholarship. The program, which is in its 18th year of existence, has so far awarded 100 such scholarships.

Livia Archibugi, who works at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, has been selected for her project ‘Pancreatic cancer: searching for molecular mechanisms that predict responses to chemotherapy’; Elisa Pellegrini from the Food, Environmental and Animal Department of the University of Udine for her study ‘Reeds dieback and climate change: where is the link?’; Letizia De Chiara from the University of Florence for her research ‘Renal polyploid cells: a new tool for the prevention of chronic kidney disease’; Ornella Juliana Piccinni from the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) was chosen for the project ‘Away with the wave: Detection of extreme objects as remnants of gravitational wave events in data from LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA interferometers’; Natalia Bruno, from the National Institute of Optics of the National Research Council (CNR-INO) in Sesto Fiorentino, for research on ‘AQTRESS – Atomic Quantum Technologies for Reliable Engineering of Solid State devices; and Lorena Baranda Pellejero of Tor Vergata for ‘Synthesis of functional molecules mediated by clinically relevant biomarkers through the use of synthetic DNA-based systems’.

In this year of pandemic, “we are particularly proud to award these six young researchers, so that they can pursue their research projects in Italy, and become examples to be followed and emulated,” stressed Francois-Xavier Fenart, President and CEO of L’Oréal Italia.

The “L’Oréal Italia Per le Donne e la Scienza” award is the culmination of L’Oréal Italia’s collaboration with the Italian National Commission for UNESCO, as part of the “For Women in Science” initiative. This collaboration has been supporting women’s scientific research in STEM fields since 1998. Over the years, it has awarded 36,000 female researches, search across 110 different countries, with prizes. Five female winners have later been awarded the Nobel Prize.

During the award ceremony, the Minister for University Research, Maria Cristina Messa, underlined that, in Italy, female students still account for only 37% of enrollments in science departments. Messa furthermore emphasised the need for greater integration between the humanities and science, in order to develop more effective tools to tackle the growing complexity of technological development, which is changing our daily lives at great speed, and generating individual and social fears and insecurities.

Mr. Bonetti, on the other hand, stressed the need for “a female point of view on science”, needed to facilitate the achievement of our societies’ ambitious goals.

The Secretary General of the UNESCO National Commission, Enrico Vicenti -quoting data from the latest UNESCO report on Science- explained that women still account for only 33% of researchers worlwide, only 28% of engineering degrees and only 22% for artificial intelligence. He also underlined how the pandemic showed us, on a global scale, the incredible relevance of scientific research, which gave us Covid vaccines in such a short time. For UNESCO, Vicenti concluded, the collaboration with L’Oréal is a valuable tool for achieving Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, relating to quality, inclusive and lifelong education. (@OnuItaly)

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