Five Women Engineering Scientists in Developing Countries Win 2017 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards

Early-career researchers from Bangladesh, Ecuador, Ghana, Indonesia and Sudan honored for their work in engineering sciences

Boston, February 16, 2017

Five researchers have been named winners of the 2017 Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World for their research in engineering, innovation and technology. The winning scholars from Bangladesh, Ecuador, Ghana, Indonesia and Sudan are being honored for their accomplishments in chemical engineering, energy and minerals engineering, environmental engineering and computer science. They are also celebrated for mentoring young women scientists in their respective countries.

"The determination, commitment and enthusiasm of these five women are an inspiration to us all, and especially to other women undertaking scientific research in developing countries. This award celebrates their excellent science and demonstrates that their hard work has had an impact both regionally and internationally, despite the difficult local conditions," said Jennifer Thomson, president of OWSD.

The five researchers are: Dr. Tanzima Hashem of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology; Dr. María Fernanda Rivera Velásquez of the Universidad Nacional de Chimborazo in Ecuador; Dr. Felycia Edi Soetaredjo of the Widya Mandala Catholic University Surabaya in Indonesia; Dr. Grace Ofori-Sarpong of the University of Mines and Technology in Ghana; and Dr. Rania Mokhtar of the Sudan University of Science and Technology.

“Each of these winners is working in emerging fields tackling some of the toughest challenges out there – from cyber security to decontamination of our most precious resources,” added Ylann Schemm, Director of the Elsevier Foundation. “By celebrating their achievements at the AAAS, our goal is to open doors and connect them with their global research peers.”

The awards represent a longstanding partnership between the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) and the Elsevier Foundation. A panel of eminent scientists selected the winners, who will all receive USD $5,000 and all-expenses-paid trip to attend the 2017 AAAS Annual Meeting, provided by the Elsevier Foundation. The five winners will be honored on February 18, 2017 during a ceremony at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Boston.

"We are celebrating the exceptional achievements of five truly outstanding women scientists", said TWAS Executive Director a.i. Mohamed Hassan, also Special Advisor to OWSD. "Their work will be widely recognized and appreciated for the benefits it can bring to developing countries and the entire world. Just as important, they will serve as inspiring role models to future generations of women science leaders."

The 2017 winners are:

  • Dr. Tanzima Hashem, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Bangladesh (Central and South Asia Region)  

Computer science and engineering: For her work in developed computational approaches to protect the privacy of people accessing location-based services. Specifically, for her new and innovative solutions which allow citizens to have control over their personal and sensitive data on health, habits and whereabouts. "This award gives me the confidence to fulfil my dream of making user-friendly technology to solve the specific challenges we face in the developing world," said Dr. Tanzima Hashem.

  • Dr. María Fernanda Rivera Velásquez, Universidad Nacional de Chimborazo, Ecuador (Latin America and the  Caribbean Region)

Environmental engineering: For her work using the fibre of a native Ecuadorian plant (Cabuya) and reactive minerals (zeolites) taken from the region to reduce contamination in industrial areas. Through her geological research into the availability of mineral resources in Ecuador, Dr. Rivera Velásquez has contributed to expanding Ecuador's capacity to exploit minerals and improving working conditions. "I belong to a generation of Ecuadorians who have received great opportunities of advanced training,” said Dr. Rivera Velásquez. “I am happy and proud to receive the OWSD-Elsevier Foundation award. It also strengthens my commitment to engage in the scientific development of my country and of the Andean region."

  • Dr. Felycia Edi Soetaredjo, Widya Mandala Catholic University Surabaya, Indonesia (East and South-East Asia and the Pacific)

Chemical engineering: For her research on using biomass for environmental remediation and renewable energy. Dr. Soetaredjo utilizes biomass and clay material to produce biosorbents, adsorbents and composites, which remove hazardous compounds such as antibiotics, heavy metals and dyes from wastewater. "Realizing that a challenge can also be an opportunity, I started working on research in the area of environment and waste,” said Dr. Soetaredjo. “My home country Indonesia is uniquely rich in biodiversity and I believe that nature has answers for each question.

  • Dr. Grace Ofori-Sarpong, University of Mines and Technology, Ghana (Sub-Saharan-Africa)

Energy and minerals engineering: For her research work in microbial-mineral interaction, recovery of precious metals, water quality monitoring and acid mine drainage. Dr. Ofori-Sarpong’s research focuses on making the extraction of gold-bearing minerals and free gold particles possible and more efficient. She also is the founder of the Association of Women in Mining and Allied Professions in Ghana. "Difficulties in the process of extracting gold from recalcitrant gold-bearing minerals motivated me to start a new research I call mycohydrometallurgy, which uses fungi to break down the host materials to ease gold extraction in a one-pot process,” said Dr. Ofori-Sarpong. “With this pleasant surprise from the Elsevier Foundation and OWSD, I am greatly encouraged to reach higher."

  • Dr. Rania Mokhtar, Sudan University of Science and Technology, Sudan (Arab Region)

Computer engineering: For her research into the knowledge, methods, theory and application of advanced security systems for mobile devices. Dr. Mokhtar is involved in research projects funded by national bodies in the field of wireless communications, agriculture automation, sensor networks and security systems. "I strive to help transform communication systems in African Universities as I see this as key to opening doors to education for many more women in STEM,” said Dr. Mokhtar. “Receiving the OWSD-Elsevier Foundation award means that I can push forward with my vision."

Read more on Elsevier Connect.

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Notes to editors
The awards ceremony will take place on February 18, 2017 during a ceremony at 8:30 a.m. in Boston at the Sheraton Boston Hotel Republic Ballroom during the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting.

Reporters wishing to attend the ceremony can contact Domiziana Francescon at +31 61 021 5901 or d.francescon@elsevier.com.

About OWSD
The Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) provides research training, career development and networking opportunities for women scientists throughout the developing world. Headed by eminent women scientists from the South, OWSD has more than 5,000 members and runs various programmes, including a PhD fellowship programme with over 200 successful graduates from Least Developed Countries and sub-Saharan Africa. OWSD is the first international forum to unite eminent women scientists from the developing and developed worlds with the objective of strengthening their role in the development process and promoting their representation in scientific and technological leadership. OWSD is affiliated with The World Academy of Science (TWAS) and based in Trieste, Italy, with national chapters throughout the developing world. www.owsd.net

About The Elsevier Foundation
The Elsevier Foundation provides grants to knowledge centered institutions around the world, with a sustainability focus on innovations in health information, diversity in STM, research in developing countries and technology for development. Since 2006, the Foundation has awarded more than 100 grants worth millions of dollars to non-profit organizations working in these fields. Through gift-matching, the Foundation also supports the efforts of Elsevier employees to play a positive role in their local and global communities. The Elsevier Foundation is a corporate not-for-profit 501(c)(3), funded by Elsevier, a global provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. www.elsevierfoundation.org

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics company that helps institutions and professionals progress science, advance healthcare and improve performance for the benefit of humanity. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, more than 35,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a world-leading provider of information and analytics to professionals and business customers, in a wide range of industries. www.elsevier.com

Media contacts
Tonya Blowers 
Program Coordinator, OWSD
+39 040 2240 682
tblowers@owsd.net

Hadley Dreibelbis
Finn Partners
+1 202 518 6496
hadley.dreibelbis@finnpartners.com

Ylann Schemm
Director, Elsevier Foundation
+31 623982359
y.schemm@elsevier.com