SEATTLE — Their stories are as fascinating as their science.
Five women scientists have traveled here from Bangladesh, Guatamala, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Yemen to be honored for their outstanding contributions in engineering, innovation and technology.
On Saturday, they will receive OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting. Each winner will present her research and talk about the inspiration behind it.
Soon, they will share their stories with their colleagues in the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) and the the Elsevier Foundation, who will help them distill their experiences into 5 minute talks.
But for now, they are getting to know each other — and this city known for innovation. Our agenda includes a visit to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to meet with their people in science and policy.
Live broadcasting and updates
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Meet the winners
Samia Subrina, PhD — Electrical Engineering (Bangladesh)
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology
Dr. Samia Subrina is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. Her research focuses on the modeling of thermal and electronic transport in nanoscale materials and the applications of these materials in nanoscale devices. She is particularly interested in nanomaterials with high thermal conductivity, such as graphene (a form of carbon), that make it useful in heat mitigation. Fast, high-performance electronic devices tend to suffer from overheating, which causes performance degradation and shortens the life of the devices. Use of high heat-carrying materials in electronic device design can provide a solution to this issue.
Samia is also focused on how physical properties of materials change as devices are increasingly scaled down to the nano level; identifying nanomaterials with the right thermal and electronic properties for this scale can lead to new technologies such as low-power nanoelectronics, high-efficiency solar cells, and thermoelectric power generators.
Samia received her PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of California Riverside in 2011. Her research has been published in many prestigious journals, including Nature Materials, Nature Scientific Report and the Journal of Applied Physics. She has been honored with a number of awards throughout her career, including the Best Paper Award at the 2018 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) WIECON-ECE conference and the Young Scientist Award from the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences and TWAS, the World Academy of Sciences, in 2016.
She is also the recipient of the Dean’s Distinguished Fellowship from the University of California, Riverside, and is a TWAS Young Affiliate. She has been involved in organizing many conferences, workshops and tutorials, and is actively engaged in several national and international professional organizations, including as executive committee member and Chair (in 2017) of the IEEE EDS/SSCS Bangladesh Chapter and editorial board member of Nature Scientific Report. Dr. Subrina is dedicated to building the technological capacity of women in engineering in Bangladesh, and has served as Affinity Group Treasurer of the Women in Engineering group of IEEE Bangladesh. She is also involved in various kinds of consultancy services in the public and private sectors of Bangladesh.
Susana Arrechea, PhD — Chemical Engineering (Guatamala)
University of San Carlos of Guatamala
In her research, Dr. Susana Arrechea is focusing on the potential industrial and environmental applications of materials such as nanoparticles, nanotubes, and graphene, which can be employed in creating more sustainable building materials, in water treatment, and in solar devices and other renewable energy solutions. In addition to contributing to the development of nanotechnology in Guatemala, she is also involved in improving solar electrification, connectivity, and digital and STEM literacy in schools in rural Guatemala in partnership with New Sun Road and Microsoft.
Susana received her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the University of San Carlos of Guatemala (USAC). She worked there as a professor of physical chemistry before pursuing her master’s degree and doctorate in nanoscience and nanotechnology at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain. After graduating Cum Laude, she worked as a visiting researcher at the University of California-Berkeley as part of a Fulbright Nexus project on renewable energy, and later at the Center for Biotechnology Studies of the University of Valle de Guatemala.
Her projects have won grants from the National Secretariat of Science and Technology in Guatemala (Senacyt) and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), among others, and she has received awards including the 2017 Guatemaltecos Ilustres award and a prize for young scientists granted by TWAS, Senacyt and the Academy of Medical, Physical and Natural Sciences of Guatemala. She has been profiled in national magazines, and in 2018 was named one of 50 Defiant Woman in Central America by the magazine Estrategia y Negocios. She is a member of the Academy of Medical, Physical and Natural Sciences of Guatemala, the International Network of Scientists of Guatemala, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD), and of other scientific networks in nanotechnology and energy.
Chao Charity Mbogo, PhD — Computer Science (Kenya)
Kenya Methodist University
In her current research, Dr. Chao Mbogo is focusing on supporting students in resource-constrained environments to learn to program using mobile devices. Computer programming is a core course in most IT-related degrees. The ubiquity of mobile phones makes them valuable tools for students to practice programming on their phones. However, limitations of mobile phones, such as small screens and small keypads, impede their use as typical programming environments. Dr. Chao is designing supporting techniques to enable learning of computer programming on such limited devices.
Since obtaining her PhD in Computer Science from the University of Cape Town in 2015, Chao has received several recognitions for her academic achievements, demonstrated leadership skills and community involvement. She was a winner of the 2014 Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship and a recipient of the 2015 Schlumberger Faculty for the Future award for women in STEM. She was also named as one of the 2017 Quartz Africa Innovators, was selected as a 2017 Techwomen Fellow, was awarded a Leadership Zuri award for her positive contribution to the Kenyan community in 2018, and was named as one of the 2018 Faces of Science in Kenya.
In 2019, Chao was recognized by Okay! Africa as one of the women of African descent who are making a positive and impactful contribution to the youth in their communities.
In addition to publishing her work in several international peer-reviewed journals and conference papers, Dr. Chao is also actively involved in the local and international Information Technology scene and is an active advocate for quality education and research. She was one of the committee organizers for the 2019 Mozilla Festival and is Founder and Program Lead for KamiLimu, an impactful structured mentorship program for university students studying computer science.
Champika Ellawala Kankanamge, PhD – Civil and Environmental Engineering (Sri Lanka)
University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka
Dr. Champika Ellawala Kankanamge, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka, works on ecosystem conservation and pollution control. Her current research focuses on controlling invasive macrophytes (aquatic plants) in river ecosystems by restoring shade and encouraging the natural resistance of native plants to invasive species. By shedding light on the behavior of aquatic plants in response to changes in environmental conditions, her research will help to control ecosystem degradation. She also works on assessing pollution levels in aquatic ecosystems. Specifically, she is studying the levels of heavy metals in edible fish and shellfish in Sri Lanka’s Batticaloa lagoon — the main source of seafood for the local community.
Champika started her career as an engineer after graduating from the University of Moratuwa with a degree in civil engineering in 2005. After earning her PhD from Saitama University, Japan, in 2011, she joined the University of Ruhuna's engineering faculty. Since then, she has served as a teacher and supervisor for many undergraduate and postgraduate students. In 2013, she received the Sri Lankan President’s award for scientific publications.
Champika collaborates with the Eastern University in Sri Lanka for her research on the Batticaloa lagoon, in addition to research collaborations with other government institutions. She has conducted research studies in Sri Lanka, Japan and New Zealand. Her research has been published in high-impact journals including the Journal of Environmental Sciences, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Flora, Aquatic Botany, Aquatic Ecology and Hydrobiologia. Results of her studies will contribute to local and global freshwater ecosystem conservation.
Fathiah Zakham, PhD — Bioengineering and Microbiology (Yemen)
Hodeidah University, Yemen
Dr. Fathiah Zakham applies biotechnology and bioengineering to the diagnosis and management of tuberculosis and other emerging infectious diseases. Her main goal is to develop rapid, accurate and cheap tools for the detection of the causal agent of tuberculosis and the control of drug-resistance TB strains, which are dramatically increasing, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Conventional culture methods for laboratory diagnosis and drug resistance testing require several weeks; the molecular approach is a good alternative in poor infrastructure settings. In addition to her work on TB, she is also using metagenomics technology to identify new zoonotic viral pathogens emerging on the Arabian peninsula, including hemorrhagic fevers. Dr. Zakham is working to implement the appropriate molecular tests for the diagnosis and surveillance of these infectious diseases.
Fathiah obtained her PhD in microbiology and molecular biology from Mohammed V University, Morocco, in 2012 and a MSc degree in microbiology and bio-engineering from the University Hassan II. In 2018, she completed a year-long postdoctoral fellowship in the Microbiology institute of University Hospital in Lausanne.
She has received the Young Investigator Award at the international Congress of Internal Medicine 2014 and the 2017 Gro Brundtland Award for professional performance in sustainable development and public health among young female scientsts. She also received the 2017 Fayza Al-Kharafi Award in biological sciences from The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). Dr. Zakham is a TWAS Young Affiliate, a member of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD), and international societies including the International Society for Infectious Disease, European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Yemeni Society of Biosafety and Biosecurity, and others.
Currently, Fathiah is an Institute of International Education Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) scholar at the University of Helsinki.
Exploring Seattle and its vibrant science scene
Our visit to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus
The Spheres, where Amazon employees can work surrounded by plants from around the world
The Troll Under the Bridge — one of the public sculptures in the funky Freemont neighborhood
At the Pike Place Market
Prepping for the big day
How to tell the world about your science in 5 minutes
In 6 steps, OWSD President Dr. Jennifer Thomson shows how to give an impactful acceptance speech to the award winners. Jennifer is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology in the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
The award ceremony
In the media
- Award ‘encourages me to keep doing research in Guatemala’ (Research Information)
- Doctora guatemalteca gana premio OWSD para mujeres científicas (Soy502)
- Sri Lankan woman scientist among winners of 2020 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards (ColomboPage)
- Kenyan Women Writes History in USA (Kenyans.co.ke)
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