L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Program 2019 recognizes outstanding female scientists in the Middle East

Six scientists win recognition for their pioneering research in scientific development in the region

Dubai, 11th November 2019: The 6th edition of the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Middle East Fellowship has recognized six leading women scientists who have made extraordinary discoveries in their fields in 2019. This initiative is part of the global L’Oréal–UNESCO for Women in Science program that has recognized over 3,200 outstanding researchers in its 21-year history, three of whom have gone on to win the Nobel Prizes.

This year, the program has received the endorsement of H.E. Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, Minister of State of Advanced Sciences, and is being held in partnership with Khalifa University of Science and Technology. An awards ceremony to honour the recipients took place at W Hotel in Dubai on November 11th where Dr. Maryam AlYammahi (UAE), Dr. Fatma Al Ma’Mari (Oman), Dr. Wafa Audah Altalhi (Saudi Arabia) and Dr. Nour Alsabeeh (Kuwait) each received EUR 20,000 in the Postdoctorate Researchers category. Wafaa Ramadan (UAE) and Asma Al-Amoodi (Saudi Arabia) each received EUR 8,000 in the PHD Students category, in recognition of their contribution to science and their aspiring research work.

“L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Middle East Fellowship is an important recognition that values women’s success in different fields of science,” said H.E. Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri. “Growth and development of all scientific fields should be an inclusive effort. Removing gender-biasness in research will ensure a higher impact of its outcomes. I wish the 2019 fellows all success as they continue on their journey of discovery – and hope their research will help overcome some of the biggest scientific challenges of today. “H.E. added.

Remi Chadapaux – L’Oréal Middle East Managing Director, said: “Now in our sixth year, we are honoured to recognize an outstanding group of women who have left no stone unturned in their quest for knowledge and scientific application. The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Middle East program was established to recognize, promote and encourage exceptional women scientists, and today it has become one of the most highly regarded initiatives in the region. The scientific research and commitment of these women to improve the lives of people is unmatched and deserves the highest levels of support and acknowledgment within our communities.”

The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Middle East Program is based on the belief that the world needs science, and science needs women, because women in science have the power to change the world

The MENA region has witnessed a rapid growth of Arab women taking on roles in STEM fields, with a number of initiatives across schools, universities and communities. According to UNESCO, 34-57 percent of STEM grads in Arab countries are women, which is significantly higher than in universities in the US or Europe. L’Oréal has been one of the first companies to create a globally recognized initiative to support and encourage female STEM graduates on such a large scale.

This year, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Middle East program is held in partnership with Khalifa University of Science and Technology, with a shared vision to give talented women scientists a voice and platform to pursue research in STEM fields. The program is committed to improving the representation of women in science and particularly in top decision-making positions by breaking gender biases and obstacles.

Professor Mouïn Hamzé, President of L’OREAL Jury, said: “The active contribution of Arab women to the development of scientific research, innovation and sustainable development in our region should not be seen as an option or a luxury, but rather as a necessity and a shared responsibility of all components of our societies. Empowering Arab women to play a leading role in facing challenges in health, environment and societal problems, requires serious attention towards: dismantling stereotypes around the social roles of both sexes, bridging the gender gap, and mobilizing decision makers to end the political instability and armed conflicts that constitute a threat to human capital and its development in the Arab world.”

Dr Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, added: “As a research-intensive academic institution that believes in the empowerment of women across all areas, Khalifa University is proud to support the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Middle East program. We are also proud that the percentage of female students studying engineering and science at Khalifa University remains one of the highest in the world. This is in line with UAE leadership’s  consistent support to women empowerment. We believe that science knows no gender – and there is an urgent need for institutions in the Middle East to recognize and support women across STEM fields by providing them with the necessary tools to complete their research. We would like to extend our congratulations to the six female scientists this year for their outstanding passion, skill and unwavering dedication to science and research.”

About the 2019 Fellows:

Postdoctorate Researchers category

  • Maryam AlYammahi (UAE): For her research on developing a new method for efficient access and retrieval of information from Big Data systems
  • Fatma Al Ma’Mari (Oman): For her research on creating new magnetic materials to replace rare earth materials as a major component in energy production
  • Wafa Audah Altalhi (Saudi Arabia): For her research on improving patient health by moving away from the reliance on organ donors
  • Nour Alsabeeh (Kuwait): For her research on investigating mechanisms underlying the development of type 2 diabetes

PHD Students category

  • Asma Al-Amoodi (Saudi Arabia): For her research on enhancing the use of certain stem cells for the treatment of haematological diseases like leukaemia
  • Wafaa Ramadan (UAE): For her research on improving the success rate of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment among women

About the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Program:

The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science initiative began 21 years ago. Since inaugural of the program, the foundation aims to empower women in science and highlight the value of their achievements by recognizing scientific excellence and remarkable contributions to science. This is critical to promoting gender equality and encouraging more girls and women to become scientists. We honor five laureates each year, one from each continent, and support women researchers and rising talents through their careers. Together, we have supported 3,100 women to date, rewarding 107 laureates and granting doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships in 118 countries. Our laureates have gained increased visibility, career opportunities and self-confidence. Importantly, three of them – Ada Yonath, Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard – have won Nobel Prizes for science.

About the L’Oréal Foundation

Accompany. Value. Communicate. Support. Move boundaries. The convictions, the core values which drive the L’Oréal Foundation’s commitment to women everyday. A commitment divided into two main areas – science and beauty.

Through its’ For Women in Science program, a worldwide partnership with UNESCO, the L’Oréal Foundation motivates girls in High School to pursue scientific careers, supports women researchers and rewards excellence in a field where women remain underrepresented.

Through its beauty programs, the Foundation assists women affected by illness, who are economically disadvantaged or isolated, to recover their sense of self-esteem and femininity in order to feel better and to fare better. Its’ actions also include providing training programs for beauty industry professions.


Since its creation in 1945, UNESCO has pursued its mission of promoting science at the service of sustainable development and peace. It stresses policies and the reinforcement of capacities in science, technology and innovation, science education, sustainable management of freshwater, ocean and terrestrial resources, the protection of biodiversity and addressing the issue of climate change. The Organization also has an overarching objective to eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote equality between men and women, especially in scientific research.

About Khalifa University of Science and Technology

The Khalifa University of Science and Technology merges the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research and the Petroleum Institute into one world-class, research-intensive institution, producing world leaders and critical thinkers in applied science and engineering. The Khalifa University of Science and Technology endeavors to be a catalyst to the growth of Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s rapidly developing knowledge economy as an education destination of choice and a global leader among research intensive universities. For more information, please visit: http://www.ku.ac.ae/

Bio for Asma Al-Amoodi (Saudi Arabia)

Asma Al-Amoodi

Enhancing the use of certain stem cells for the treatment of haematological diseases like leukaemia

Asma was deeply affected by leukemic patients including kids and adults, and felt compelled to contribute to improving their lives. Asma believes that a potentially valuable long-term hematopoietic stem cell source (CD34 negative) is being ignored in clinical Bone Marrow-transplants worldwide, which could potentially be of tremendous benefit in cancer treatment.

Currently, there is limited therapy for leukemic patients especially in Saudi Arabia, where there are high percentage of affected patients. Asma’s research addresses how we can improve and enhance the use of haematopoeitic stem or progenitor cells (HSPCs) for the treatment of haematological diseases by understanding the mechanisms of HSPCs homing. This will have a high impact in the biomedical research field with real applications in the clinic, thus improving the therapeutic efficiency of Bone Marrow-transplantation.

Asma’s ultimate goal is to build and have a research center that brings together prominent scientists from around the world to conduct cancer research. She believes if scientists come together, they can ultimately help find a solution to one of the most destructive diseases in the world “cancer”.

Bio for Dr. Fatma Al Ma’Mari (Oman)

Fatma AlMamari

Creating new magnetic materials to replace rare earth materials as a major component in energy production

Magnets are a vital part of modern life as they are used largely in most amenities of modern life from data storage in mobile phones to energy production lines such as solar cells and wind turbines.  A large amount of rare earth minerals, primarily neodymium and dysprosium, are key components of the permanent magnets used in modern wind turbines. These rare earth elements are expensive and cause environmental damage. In addition, mining one ton of rare earth minerals produces about one ton of radioactive waste.

Fatma’s research is focused on developing hybrid metal-organic materials with a magnetic strength equivalent to the rare earth materials, which is much more cost effective and environmentally sustainable. Her research proposes a new class of artificially structured materials for permanent magnets that will be useful for numerous industrial and technological applications.

Fatma hopes that her research using carbon-based magnets would help make energy production and electrical motors cheaper, which could have a great impact in the Middle East by providing energy when oil becomes scarce.

Bio for Dr. Maryam AlYammahi (UAE)

Maryam Al Yammahi

Developing a new method for efficient access and retrieval of information from Big Data systems

Data science, including Big Data and Artificial intelligence are playing an important role in the fourth industrial revolution. Maryam’s research is based on leveraging data gathering, analysis and prediction to make better decisions.

Her research project contributes to the Data Sciences field, and is focused on computational intelligence with Big Data systems. It is a newly invented system and method for efficient access and retrieval of information on Big Data systems. Maryam has developed unique software that can process and analyse a huge amount of data. Think of it as an advanced Google search engine that helps filter the most relevant information, which can then be used for a specific purpose.

She believes that this software will majorly benefit many sectors, especially Information Technology and Artificial Intelligence. Once fully implemented, the software can be used in any fields, including in medicine or outer space, to get the most desired data.

Bio for Dr. Nour Alsabeeh (Kuwait)

Nour Al Sabeeh

Investigating mechanisms underlying the development of type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a complex metabolic disease that has now become a worldwide epidemic increasing at an especially alarming rate in Kuwait and the GCC region.

Nour’s research helps identify mechanisms that may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. She has discovered a novel mechanism regulating insulin secretion under non-stimulatory glucose conditions, which may drive hyperinsulinemia during the pre-diabetic state.

Her investigation utilizes pharmacologic and genetic manipulations to identify mechanisms or targets that may ultimately offer an avenue for early treatment and mitigation of type 2 diabetes and prevention of pancreatic beta cell failure.

Bio for Dr. Wafa Audah Altalhi (Saudi Arabia)

Wafa Audah Altalhi

Improve patient health by moving away from the reliance on organ donors

End-stage organ failure is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The only way to improve that is through organ transplantation. However, this is dependent on the availability of a matching donor. The transplantation waiting list has been increasing over the past several years, putting immense pressure on the patient in terms of hospitalization expenses. Wafa’s research focuses on identifying a new way to overcome such demands while improving the quality of a patient’s life.

Her research promises to bioengineer patient-specific and donor-less organs. Wafa is doing this by making specialized deep-vascularized tissues and organs ready for transplantation when they are needed. The study aims to understand the cellular proliferation and differentiation trajectories from patient-derived pluripotent stem cells. She then uses these patient-derived cells to bioengineer organs in decellularized organ scaffolds; this will ultimately make these organs available off the shelf and ready for transplantation.

Besides making organs available for transplantation without the need for a donor, this project could reduce rejection caused by conventional transplantation since it uses the patient’s own cells. Wafa hopes that the same technology used in this project—if successful—could be used to bioengineer a uterus by using a woman’s cells to replace an infertile uterus, for example.

Wafa anticipates her research will help answer some of the essential questions about organ bioengineering, regeneration, and human cellular phenotype specification. That will ultimately improve overall healthcare and reduce the costs of hospitalization.

Bio for Wafaa Ramadan (UAE)

Wafaa Ramadan

Improving the success rate of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment among women

Breast cancer has become a public health issue worldwide. Although there are great advances in breast cancer awareness and treatment, the mortality rates are still quite high. In the UAE, the incidence rate of breast cancer has been continuously increasing since 1980, and was reported to be 39.9% among all cancer cases diagnosed in women last year. Despite various treatment therapies, a high percentage of patients do not benefit from the currently available anticancer drugs.

Wafaa Ramadan decided to address this through her research. She believed that the basic biology of breast cancer required more investigation, and that there was a need to understand the cellular stress response pathways and their aberrations in cancer, which may lead to the development of more promising treatment strategies.

Wafaa’s current research focuses on understanding the response of cancer cells to cellular stress induced by anticancer drugs through investigating the role of certain epigenetic modulators in cellular stress adaptation. This may lead to the identification of epigenetic biomarkers that can help in diagnosis, prognosis and even predicting the treatment response. Wafaa believes this will help establish new targets for breast cancer therapy, which could lead to the best outcomes in the management of a patient’s cancer disease.

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