Laser physicists wins award for women scientists in developing countries
Stellenbosch University (SU) laser physicist Dr Christine Steenkamp is among a dozen women scientists from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean honoured for research excellence by the Third World Organisation for Women in Science (TWOWS).
The TWOWS Awards for Young Women Scientists were presented on 27 June during the TWOWS 4th General Assembly and International Conference in Beijing, China. TWOWS is the first international forum uniting women scientists from developing countries with the objective of strengthening their role in the development process and promoting their representation in scientific and technological leadership.
The TWOWS Awards were expanded this year through a grant from the Elsevier Foundation New Scholar to cover three disciplines in each region – biology, chemistry and physics/mathematics. Each winner received a cash prize of $5 000, which was awarded by the vice president of China, Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People, through the sponsorship of the Elsevier Foundation and the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS).
Dr Steenkamp received the TWOWS Award for Young Women Scientists in Physics/Mathematics for the Africa region for 2010, for her high standard of work on especially vacuum ultraviolet laser spectroscopy. The achievements of this member of the SU Laser Research Institute and lecturer in the Department of Physics are all the more remarkable in view of the fact that her scientific output has been achieved in the field of experimental physics, where no research infrastructure was available when she started her physics career in South Africa in the 1990s.
The other winners from Africa were Nigerians Dr Uchechi Ekwenye from Michael Okpara University of Agriculture in Nigeria (biology), and Dr Anthonet Ezejiofor from Abia State University Teaching Hospital (chemistry).
During the conference Dr Steenkamp delivered a lecture on her work on vacuum ultraviolet laser spectroscopy. She explained that laser sources providing light of tuneable wavelength in the vacuum ultraviolet (vuv) region of the light spectrum (wavelengths of 100-200 nanometre) are not available commercially and only a few such sources exist worldwide. During the course of her studies and research Dr Steenkamp developed one such a vuv laser source at the Laser Research Institute at Stellenbosch University, where it is used for novel spectroscopic investigations of super cooled CO molecules. These techniques have since provided data that can be used by the astrophysics community to interpret results obtained from space station observations of interstellar space.
“It gives us great pleasure to announce the twelve recipients of the TWOWS Awards for Young Women Scientists,” says TWOWS president Kaiser Jamil. “The recognition that this provides will undoubtedly provide an invaluable boost to the promising careers of these young women scientists.”
“The Elsevier Foundation is honoured to be able to recognize and reward talented young women scientists from around the world,” noted Elsevier Foundation executive director David Ruth. “Encouraging the work of promising scientists in the developing world helps to promote wider participation and excellence in science, a key objective of The Elsevier Foundation’s New Scholars programme.”
Background on her work and other achievements:
Recipient of the Silwer Medal for young researchers from the South African Institute for Physics 2009 http://blogs.sun.ac.za/news/2009/08/13/laser-physicist-receives-award-for-her-research/
TWOWS Awards: http://twows.ictp.it/news-items/12-win-elsevier-foundation-twows-awards/