Three Stellenbosch University (SU) PhD students are among 10 women who have been named as winners of the 2011 L’Oréal-UNESCO Regional Fellowships For Women in Science (FWIS) in Sub-Saharan Africa.  They were awarded fellowships of US$20 000.

The three are Dalene de Swardt, who is currently completing a PhD in Medical Virology,  Jeanne de Waal, who is studying towards a PhD in Agricultural Science and Kim Trollope, who is busy with a PhD in Microbiology.

Other winners include Olutayo K Boyinbode (Nigeria), Valencia Jacobs (SA), Ifeoma Obidike (Nigeria), Ruth Odhiambo (Kenya), Salome Muriuki (Kenya), Rachel Muigai (Kenya), and Madeleine Bihina Bella (Cameroon).

Kim Trollope, 34, says her inherent curiosity and the ever-changing nature of science were what first drew her to the discipline. “I chose a career in science as I am interested in finding out how things work. I liked the idea of doing a job where things are not predetermined and are constantly developing. I also like to be involved in research as I think it forms the basis for many human activities, and contributing to that knowledge base appeals to me.”

Dalene de Swardt, 31, completed her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at SU. “I chose to study science as I had great interest in the world invisible to the naked eye, such as disease-causing organisms, and I wanted to be part of the research that aims to develop treatments and vaccines. Science brings with it an incredibly stimulating environment with many exciting opportunities.”

Jeanne de Waal, 27, says her current focus area is sustainable agricultural fruit production in South Africa, particularly environmentally-friendly pest management, in line with current fruit quality production standards and export regulations. “Science and technology is the golden pathway through complex and interlinked global processes such as increased globalisation, fundamental shifts in economic and political power, environmental challenges, and social conflict. I want to be part of the solution and not the problem. I want to answer tomorrow’s questions, today. I believe that a career in science gives one the opportunity to do just that by expanding the frontiers of knowledge and developing sustainable solutions for a better future for all.”

In 2010, the first time that the L’Oréal-UNESCO Fellowships had been extended on a regional basis to include Sub-Saharan Africa, five female scientists were recognised and rewarded with fellowships of US$20 000 towards the completion of their PhD research projects. Based on the extra-ordinary success of the programme, and as part of The L’Oréal Corporate Foundation’s continued efforts to support women in science, the Foundation doubled the number of Fellowships to be awarded in 2011.

The L’Oréal Corporate Foundation created the For Women in Science partnership with UNESCO in 1998. Since then, over 1 000 women scientists across the globe have been distinguished by the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards or supported in pursuing their careers through the various fellowship programmes.

Regional Fellowships such as this one are a natural extension of the international programme, and aim to broaden the reach of the foundation and support even more women in achieving their goals in the world of science. The regional programme for Sub-Saharan Africa is organised in conjunction with the African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI).  A similar programme exists in the Arab States.

The fellowship programme also aims to increase the representation of women in global scientific circles, creating role models for future female generations. In 2009, two previous FWIS laureates were awarded Nobel Prizes in chemistry and medicine, bearing testimony to the impact of the foundation’s influence on scientific research.


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