Credit: Originally published by The Australian | 9 March 2015.

YOUNG female scientists from six continents were last night named “international rising talents” at the L’Oréal-UNESCO “For Women in Science” awards in Paris.

The awards are presented annually to 15 PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, selected from the winners of the 236 fellowships awarded by L’Oréal subsidiaries and UNESCO around the world.

“These young researchers are indeed the future of science,” the organisers said in a statement.

“This year’s international rising talents are already making significant contributions in disciplines as varied as ecology and sustainable development, physics, pharmacology, epidemiology, medical research, neuroscience and evolutionary biology.”

Many of the award winners research in cutting-edge interdisciplinary fields. Denmark’s Signe Normand, a plant ecologist and biogeographer, uses drones to monitor the effects of climate change on Greenland’s vegetation.

South African quantum biologist Adriana Marais is using quantum physics to explore the role of photosynthesis in the origins of life. Beirut’s Sanaa Sharafeddine is harnessing computing to improve the reliability of Lebanon’s electricity grid.

Most of this year’s winners are involved in medical research of various sorts. Vietnam’s Phuong Ha-Lien Tran is using nanotechnology to deliver a new therapeutic, extracted from seaweed, directly to cancer cells.

French cognitive neuroscientist Aurore Avarguès-Weber’s study of bees’ brains could have major implications for fields as varied as artificial intelligence, device miniaturisation and medicine. Australian winner Kat Holt, a geneticist and biostatistician with the University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Institute, is applying lessons learnt in Kathmandu — where she studied the evolution and spread of typhoid — to the drug-resistant superbugs stalking western hospitals.

Earlier this month L’Oréal and UNESCO announced this year’s five “laureates” — established female scientists who have “attained great distinction” in their fields. They are Moroccan physicist Rajaâ Cherkaoui El Moursli, Chinese inorganic chemist Yi Xie, British chemist Carol Robinson, Brazilian astronomer Thaisa Storchi Bergmann and Canadian polymer chemist Molly Shoichet.

Two of the 87 laureates awarded since 1998 have gone on to win Nobel prizes.

Written by John Ross.