Meet the winners of the 2021 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award

Five award-winning women scientists from the developing world will present virtually at AAAS

By Alison Bert, DMA - February 4, 2021 - Updated March 4, 2021
2021 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation winners
Winners of the 2021 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World (clockwise from left): María Eugenia Cabrera Catalán, PhD (Guatemala); Ghada Dushaq, PhD (Palestine); Marian Asantewah Nkansah, PhD (Ghana); Khongorzul Dorjgotov, PhD (Mongolia); and Imalka Munaweera, PhD (Sri Lanka)

They come from developing countries around the world, and their research is transforming the world we live in. They are the winners of the OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award for Early Career Women Scientists in the Developing World. This year's researchers are in the physical sciences, and they represent the following regions:

Here you can read about the winners and their research — and register to watch them in the award ceremony at AAAS.

The winners

Arab Region

Ghada Dushaq, PhD — Physics

Postdoctoral Associate, NYU Abu Dhabi

Dr Ghada Dushaq is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Photonics Research lab of NYU Abu Dhabi. As a researcher in applied physics, she investigates new and innovative materials, structures and process technologies to improve the performance of high-speed optoelectronics, nanoelectronics and photonics devices. Her research on the use of silicon, germanium, III-V compound semiconductors, and other 2D materials is intended to improve the efficiency of current technologies and address their limitations.

Read more

Central and South Asia

Imalka Munaweera, PhD — Synthetic Chemistry

Senior Lecturer, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka

Dr Imalka Munaweera is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura in Sri Lanka. Her research focuses on using synthetic chemistry techniques to produce nanoparticles and nanofibre composites that can be applied in a range of functions, from drug delivery to water filtration to minimizing post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables. She has made particular advances in using nanotechnology to produce environmentally-friendly and cost-effective crop fertilizers, and in developing chemoradiotherapeutic formulations and radiotherapeutic bandages for use in lung and skin cancer treatment.

Read more

East and Southeast Asia & the Pacific

Khongorzul Dorjgotov, PhD — Mathematics

Senior Lecturer, National University of Mongolia

Dr Khongorzul Dorjgotov is a mathematician whose research focuses on fractional differential equations (FDEs), an emerging field in applied and theoretical mathematics with many applications in science and engineering. FDEs have been recognized as an excellent tool for describing complex systems and processes in many applied sciences, including physics, chemistry, biology and economics. The study of these types of equations is becoming increasingly popular as they can more accurately model a given physical system or process than conventional differential equations.

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Latin America & the Caribbean

María Eugenia Cabrera Catalán, PhD — Physics

Junior Professor, University of San Carlos of Guatemala

As a Junior Professor in the School of Physical Sciences and Mathematics at University of San Carlos of Guatemala (USAC), Dr María Eugenia Cabrera’s Catalán researches the phenomenology of physics. Her work builds on the discovery of the Higgs boson particle in 2012, expanding the knowledge of what we know about the Standard Model of particle physics and the fundamental forces of nature.

Read more

Sub-Saharan Africa

Marian Asantewah Nkansah, PhD — Environmental Chemistry

Associate Professor, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Ghana

Dr Marian Asantewah Nkansah is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana, where she teaches Practical Chemistry, Nuclear/Radiochemistry, Chemistry and Society, and Petroleum Chemistry. In her research, she focuses on identifying and characterizing the presence of both inorganic and organic contaminants in water, food, soil, the atmosphere and other environmental matrices, and on developing strategies for environmental remediation. By preparing and analyzing samples from different environments, she can determine the levels and effects of contaminants such as heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are generated by urbanization, industrial activities, artisanal activities and mining. She is striving to make the public aware of the risks of heavy metals, which she has found in unexpected places such as spices, lipstick, edible clay and classroom dust.

Read more

Watch the AAAS ceremony

The virtual ceremony was on February 9. Here's how to watch the recording:

  1. Register for a free "Public Event Passport" with AAAS
  2. Access the session here

Selected research by the awardees

These are selections of the award winners' research papers published in Elsevier's journals.

Khongorzul Dorjgotov, PhD

Ghada Dushaq, PhD

Imalka Munaweera, PhD

Marian Asantewah Nkansah, PhD

About the award

The 2020 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award winners at the AAAS Meeting in Seattle (Photo by Alison Bert)Since 2012, the OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World have recognized the achievements of researchers who have made significant contributions to the advancement of scientific knowledge. The program represents a longstanding partnership between the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) (OWSD) and the Elsevier Foundation.

Each year, five winners are selected from the following regions: Latin America and the Caribbean; East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific; Central and South Asia; the Arab region; Sub-Saharan Africa. Prizes are awarded annually on a rotating basis among the disciplines of Biological Sciences, Engineering Sciences and Physical Sciences.

Each winner is sponsored to attend the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where they present their research at a special networking ceremony. There, they have the opportunity to attend workshops, meet experts in their field and visit local laboratories and institutions, establishing contacts and collaboration networks with colleagues from around the world.

With the 2021 winners, the program has awarded 45 scientists from 20 countries. Read their stories.

Information for this page was provided by OWSD and the Elsevier Foundation.


Alison Bert, DMA
Written by

Alison Bert, DMA

Written by

Alison Bert, DMA

As Executive Editor of Strategic Communications at Elsevier, Dr. Alison Bert works with contributors around the world to publish daily stories for the global science and health communities. Previously, she was Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier Connect, which won the 2016 North American Excellence Award for Science & Education.

Alison joined Elsevier in 2007 from the world of journalism, where she was a business reporter and blogger for The Journal News, a Gannett daily newspaper in New York. In the previous century, she was a classical guitarist on the music faculty of Syracuse University. She received a doctorate in music from the University of Arizona, was Fulbright scholar in Spain, and studied in a master class with Andrés Segovia.


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