Woman Biologist Wins Top Award

ByYan Dongjie May 30, 2024
Woman Biologist Wins Top Award
Yan Ning receives the 2024 L'Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Award for the Asia-Pacific region. [Xinhua]


Academician Yan Ning of the Chinese Academy of Sciences received the 2024 L'Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Award for the Asia-Pacific region at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on Tuesday.

Yan, professor at the School of Life Sciences at Tsinghua University and founding president of the Shenzhen Medical Academy of Research and Translation, was recognized for her research in structural biology that has helped explain multiple disorders such as epilepsy and arrhythmia and guided the treatment of pain syndrome.

The eighth Chinese scientist to win the award, Yan discovered the atomic structure of multiple membrane proteins that mediate the traffic of ions and sugars across the cell membrane, revealing principles that govern cross-membrane transport.

"Our goal is to broaden the boundaries of human knowledge," Yan said in an interview published by UNESCO. "Through cutting-edge technologies, my work has evolved from exploring the processes of physiology and cellular activities to precisely discerning potentially effective health therapies. Ultimately, I aim to use science to understand the universe, to delve into the origins of life and the foundations of consciousness."

UNESCO said that as a leading authority in her field, "Yan inspires female scientists globally and is a strong advocate for gender equality in research and science education".

The four other winners of the award were Professor Rose Leke, an immunologist from Cameroon, Professor Alicia Kowaltowski, a biochemist from Brazil, Professor Nada Jabado from Canada, who conducts research in human genetics, and Professor Genevieve Almouzni, a molecular biologist from France.

"The path to becoming a female scientist may be challenging, but it is not enough to stop you from moving forward. So, be brave and be yourself," Yan said in her acceptance speech.

Her calls on social media for the elimination of gender discrimination, which have amassed 1.3 million followers, have become her platform to influence aspiring female scientists, telling them to "be brave, be confident and dare to seek help".

Since 2015, she has been organizing annual forums for female scientists. In the two research institutions she leads, over half of the management positions are held by women.

"We must establish gender equality, establish more female role models, change the historical biases and cultural prejudices in academia and society toward women," Yan said. "We need to prove that women also possess leadership qualities and deserve fair recognition."

Audrey Azoulay, director general of UNESCO, said, "The world needs science, and science needs women."

According to UNESCO data, women make up just a third of the global research workforce, and only a quarter of the senior scientific positions in Europe are held by women.

Every year, the L'Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Awards honor an exceptional woman from each of five broad regions: Africa and the Arab states, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America.

This year's winners were selected from among 350 candidates worldwide by an independent international jury.

UNESCO said the five latest laureates had made major contributions to tackling global public health challenges ranging from cancer to infectious diseases such as malaria and polio and chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and epilepsy.

"Through the excellence of their work, these laureates demonstrate that science needs women now more than ever, for example, to meet major public health challenges, at a time when cases of cancer could increase by 77 percent by 2050, obesity affects 1 in 8 people worldwide, and there are still more than 249 million cases of malaria infection," it said.


(Source: China Daily)


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