Ana Rita Marques, Isabel Veiga, Maria Inês Almeida and Patrícia Baptista were the four young researchers who won the 13th edition of the "L'Oréal Portugal Medals of Honor for Women in Science", an initiative promoted by L'Oréal Portugal, in partnership with the National UNESCO Commission, the Foundation for Science and Technology, and with the support of Ciência Viva.
The jury, chaired by Alexandre Quintanilha, evaluated 80 applications in this edition and decided to distinguish the work of four young Portuguese scientists who develop research in the areas of infertility, malaria, bone regeneration and mobility, respectively. The awards ceremony took place this Tuesday, February 7, at the Pavilion of Knowledge, and was attended by the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
This annual award from L'Oréal Portugal, worth €15,000, is intended for young Portuguese scientists conducting research in Portugal, already holding a PhD and aged up to 35 years, who conduct original studies relevant to health and/or the environment. The award was established in 2004, and aims to motivate and support young scientists to pursue their projects. To date, this award has distinguished 41 female researchers in Portugal.
About the award-winning female researchers:
Ana Rita Marques (36 years old), from the Gulbenkian Science Institute (IGC), seeks to unveil the role of the centrioles' shield for the correct regulation of these tiny structures responsible for cell division. Understanding how the absence or presence of this shield is regulated may open new lines of research, with applications in the areas of female infertility, tissue regeneration, diseases related to embryonic malformations, and cancer.
She obtained her PhD at the IGC, in the area of developmental biology (2007-11), and at the age of 31, already after having her first daughter, she began her post-doctoral studies in the area of cell biology as a researcher at the same institution. In 2015, she became a mother again and currently remains at the IGC, in the Cell Cycle Regulation Group, under the guidance of Mónica Bettencourt Dias and with the support of the FCT.
Isabel Veiga (35 years old), from the Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS) at the University of Minho, intends to investigate the factors and genetic mutations of the malaria parasite that make it resistant to the only existing therapy to fight this disease, responsible for nearly half a million deaths per year. Its study becomes crucial to anticipate to what extent the current treatment will be effective, and to be able to increase its effect and longevity.
She holds a PhD in Medical Sciences from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (2011), where she started her study on malaria parasite resistance to available treatment and pursued postdoctoral research. She has been collaborating for four years with Columbia University (USA) and ICVS on malaria parasite research.
Maria Inês de Almeida (33 years old), from i3S - Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto, studies non-coding RNA molecules, trying to determine if they are able to "instruct" cells to regenerate tissue, namely bone tissue, helping to stop diseases such as osteoporosis, treat birth defects, or recover from injuries and surgeries.
She has a PhD from the University of Minho and the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, where she studied the biological effects of microRNAs in colorectal cancer. In 2013 she started a postdoctoral fellowship at i3S, continuing to study the role of microRNAs and RNA molecules.
Patrícia Baptista (33), from the Centro de Estudos em Inovação, Tecnologia e Políticas de Desenvolvimento IN+ - Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), is developing a research project whose goal is to improve urban mobility by developing a tool that makes an effective assessment of the shortest, most economical, safest, least polluting, and healthiest routes, especially for users with greater mobility difficulties.
D. in Sustainable Energy Systems (IST) under the MIT Portugal Program (2011), having dedicated himself to the Impact Assessment of Alternative Fuels and Technologies in the Road Sector. Continued for post-doctoral studies at Associate Laboratory de Energia, Transportes e Aeronáutica (IST), assessing the Energy, Environmental and Economic Impact of Communication and Information Technologies in Urban Mobility.