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5 women scientists from Global South win award for water quality research

9 avril 2024

Par Rebecca Clear

Winners of the 2024 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World

Winners of 2024 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award (clockwise from upper L): Drs Tasrina Rabia Choudhury, Bangladesh; Augustina Clara Alexander, Tanzania; Lidia Antonella Rivera, Honduras; WG Shirani Manel Kumari, Sri Lanka; Zubeda Ukundimana, Uganda.

The 2024 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award for Women Scientists recognizes researchers from Bangladesh, Honduras, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda.

Five researchers have been awarded the 2024 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing WorldS’ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre for innovative research that helps meet the challenge of improved water quality, advancing UN Sustainable Development Goal 6: Water and SanitationS’ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre — an issue that disproportionately affects women and girls around the world.

Their research explores a wide range of pioneering ways the challenge of water quality can be tackled, from using hydrological modelling to bioremediation with bacteria, and from creating nanocomposites for heavy metal removal to working with communities to develop sustainable practices. The prize also acknowledges the scientists’ commitment to leadership, mentoring and engagement within their communities, including the translation of research into actionable insights for stakeholders.

“Clean water is as essential a need as it gets — not only for humans but for the ecosystems that sustain us. Our five amazing winners this year are all working in their own different ways to make sure that the most vulnerable communities have access to clean water, and that critical ecosystems such as our coral reefs and wetlands are protected.”

Prof Jennifer Thompson, PhD


Jennifer Thomson, PhD

President de Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD)

This year’s winners are:

“With these awards, our vision is to celebrate impressive women scientists who are helping to make real progress towards advancing the UN SDGs. We know that women and girls bear the brunt of the water and sanitation crisis, yet we do not have gender parity in research around issues disproportionately affecting women around the world. By offering this prize, we want to spotlight the important research undertaken by the women who’ve become inspiring role models for communities most affected by this issue.”

Portrait photo of Ylann Schemm


Ylann Schemm

Executive Director de Elsevier Foundation

The awards have recognized women-led science from more than 20 low- and middle-income countries since 2013. They are given in partnership by the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSDS’ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre) and theElsevier FoundationS’ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre. OWSD fields applications and chairs a panel of distinguished scientists to select the winners, and the Foundation awards a cash prize for each winner of USD $5,000, as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to attend a relevant conference in the awardees’ field to provide them with vital networking opportunities. In 2024, awardees will attend Singapore International Water WeekS’ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre. The winners will also have the opportunity to publish their work in STAR ProtocolsS’ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre, an open access, peer-reviewed journal by Cell Press which offers structured, transparent, accessible and repeatable step-by-step experimental and computational protocols from all areas of life, health, earth and physical sciences.

Past award winners have been invited to meet their country’s presidents and have been celebrated by local, national and international media, while other winners have gone on to receive other prestigious awards and fellowships, including L’Oreal–UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowships, and to hold influential scientific leadership positions, including National Secretary of Science and Technology.

The winners

Augustina Clara Alexander, PhD — University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Dr Augustina Clara Alexander is a civil and water resources engineer from Tanzania. Her research focuses on the areas of water supply and treatment, hydrological modeling, climate change and land-use impact assessment, and water resources evaluation and management. Augustina is part of Unlocking Resilient Benefits from African water resources (RESBEN)S’ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre, a project looking for a holistic understanding of processes and relationships of factors involved in sustainable water resource management and development while focusing on a novel research theory, methodologies and practice.

Tasrina Rabia Choudhury, PhD — Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission

Dr Tasrina Rabia Choudhury is a chemist from Bangladesh with expertise ranging from water quality improvement to environmental restoration, from climate change to risk assessment and environmental modeling, and more. She is working to pioneer novel approaches in the remediation techniques of toxic elements from wastewater and drinking water, ensuring the delivery of safe drinking water to underserved communities. Tasrina has actively engaged with local communities, implementing awareness campaigns that educate them about the importance of hygiene and efficient water use.

Prof Shirani Manel Kumari Widana Gamage, PhD — University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka

Prof Shirani Manel Kumari Widana Gamage is a plant virologist from Sri Lanka. Her main research focus is on various aspects of microbiological applications, including bioremediation of polluted soil and water environments, biofertilization and bioherbicides. She has developed a new platform to monitor cyanobacterial blooms in freshwater with a remote sensing-based model, to monitor and predict the risk of bloom and toxins formation for the first time in the country — supporting local communities at high risk of exposure to cyanotoxin-contaminated water.

Lidia Antonella Rivera Peñalva, PhD — Coral Reef Alliance, Honduras

Dr Rivera is a biologist from Honduras. She has a multidisciplinary research background that ranges from analyzing the management of larval dispersal, to the use of perception research to assess the adaptive capacity of coastal communities. Her Mesoamerican Reef Regional Water Quality Monitoring Program —an initiative across three countries, 90 sites and over 20 institutions — established a unified monitoring protocol and provided invaluable data on key contaminants in principal tourist zones. Currently, Antonella works on generating research to support science-based decision-making in fisheries and water quality.

Zubeda Ukundimana, PhD — Kampala International University, Uganda

Dr Zubeda Ukundimana is a chemical and environmental engineer from Rwanda, working as lecturer and environmental impact assessment consultant in Uganda. Her research has focused on assessing the wetland vulnerability to wastewater and developing treatment processes for abating pollutants concentration to protect receiving water bodies. Currently, Zubeda coordinates the North-South Alliance for Inclusive Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (ALL4WASH)S’ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre — bringing together international partners to confront challenges of water supply and sanitation through mutual cooperation.


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Rebecca Clear

Directrice de la communication sur la responsabilité d’entreprise


+44 7919 396403

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