Professor Pratibha Gai’s modified electron microscope is helping scientists develop new medicines and energy sources.
It can watch chemical interactions on the surface of catalysts at less than 100 billionths of a millimetre – the size of a typical atom.
In March, she will be named as the 15th L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Laureate for Europe, and receive USD 100 000 for her work. ‘It is humbling to be the laureate for the whole of Europe,’ she said in a statement after the award was announced.
Cosmetics firm L'Oréal and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) teamed up in 1998 to create the award. It is given annually to a female scientist from each of five world regions – Africa and the Arab States, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America.
‘We found that the most efficient teams were made up of roughly the same number of men and women,’ said Jennifer Campbell, Secretary General of the L'Oréal Foundation. ‘That's one reason we developed the programme.’
Two previous winners, US Professor Elizabeth Blackburn and Israeli Professor Ada Yonath, have gone on to win Nobel Prizes. Professor Pratibha Gai has been named as the 15th L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Laureate for Europe. © L'Oréal
The L’Oréal-UNESCO prize ‘proves that half of humanity has been the victim of the discriminatory stereotype that women are not gifted for pure science,’ said Dr Sonia Bahri of UNESCO.
University of York-based Prof. Gai is the second British scientist in two years to win the award, which alternates yearly between life sciences and physical sciences.
She started her career as a scientist heading the surface reactions and catalysis group at the University of Oxford before moving to the US in 1988 to work on nanotechnology as research fellow at DuPont Central Research Laboratory. In 1997, she made a breakthrough in microscopy, developing an instrument that allows observers to see chemical reactions occurring at the surface atoms of catalysts. Ten years later, she returned to the UK and founded the York JEOL Nanocentre at the University of York, still perfecting this new instrument.
Last year, the University of Oxford's Professor Frances Ashcroft won the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science prize for Europe for her work on insulin secretion and neonatal diabetes – a rare form of the disease – which has allowed those born with it to take pills instead of having injections.
On 28 March, the five new laureates will collect their prizes at an awards ceremony in Paris, France.
The L’Oréal-UNESCO Foundation offers:
1 International special fellowship
5 international awards
15 international fellowships
20 regional fellowships
180 national fellowships
The L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards recognise exceptional women who have made great advances in scientific research. Two of them have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize.
In its aim to promote and encourage women throughout their scientific careers, the For Women in Science partnership has also developed a global network of International, Regional and National Fellowship programs aimed at supporting young women who represent the future of science. The programme has become a benchmark of scientific excellence on an international scale.
There are about 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide and about 50 eruptions occur each year. But it’s still difficult to predict when and how these eruptions will happen or how they’ll unfold. Now, new insight into the physical processes inside volcanoes are giving scientists a better understanding of their behaviour, which could help protect the 1 billion people who live close to volcanoes.
Artificial intelligence (AI) used by governments and the corporate sector to detect and extinguish online extreme speech often misses important cultural nuance, but bringing in independent factcheckers as intermediaries could help step up the fight against online vitriol, according to Sahana Udupa, professor of media anthropology at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany.
Stone and concrete structures with the ability to heal themselves in a similar way to living organisms when damaged could help to make buildings safer and last longer.
In the summer of 2014 a strange building began to take shape just outside MoMA PS1, a contemporary art centre in New York City. It looked like someone had started building an igloo and then got carried away, so that the ice-white bricks rose into huge towers. It was a captivating sight, but the truly impressive thing about this building was not so much its looks but the fact that it had been grown.
Better predictions of volcano behaviour could protect people and infrastructure.
Bacteria can give structures an ‘in-built immune system’ to help them last longer.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.