The L'Oréal Foundation and the UNESCO recognise five exceptional women scientists with the 2011 For Women In Science awards

Media releases, Women in Science

Australian professor Jillian Banfield honoured as the 2011 Laureate for North America

November 11, 2010: Professor Ahmed Zewail, President of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards Jury, today announced the five Laureates of the 2011 program.  Each year, five outstanding women scientists – one per region – are honoured for the contributions of their research, the strength of their commitments and their impact on society.  With the Marie Curie Nobel Centenary being celebrated in 2011, this year the For Women in Science program has a particularly strong resonance, placing women and chemistry at the heart of science today.

The awards ceremony will take place on March 3, 2011 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.  Each Laureate will receive US$100,000 in recognition of her contributions to science.

Laureates of the 13th Annual L’Oréal-UNESCO 2011 For Women in Science Awards

More than 1,000 high-level scientists from around the world were involved in the nomination of the Awards’ candidates, who come from five regions.  The International Awards Jury, comprised of 16 eminent members of the scientific community, and presided over by Professor Ahmed Zewail, recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, then selected the five women researchers in the Physical Sciences as the Laureates of the 2011 Awards.  Their pioneering projects contribute to finding solutions to major challenges for our planet.

Professor Zewail declared, “It is a great pleasure for me to chair this jury and to promote this program, which is of major international importance.  The women scientists from all over the world who are receiving the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards make it possible for us to hope for a better future.”


The 2011 Laureate for North America is Jillian Banfield, Professor of Earth and Planetary Science, of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, and of Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Berkeley.  She is a geomicrobiologist and biogeochemist whose work focuses on the fundamental relationship between microorganisms and their natural environments.  Professor Banfield was selected for her work on bacterial and material behaviour under extreme conditions relevant to the environment and the Earth.

“Human societies urgently need to develop ways to function in a sustainable manner,” said Professor Banfield. “ I hope my work will help to elucidate the many and complex interconnections between physical, chemical, and biological processes, so that we can better understand the impacts of our choices and find better ways of meeting the needs of people and the biosphere as a whole.”

Originally from Australia, Professor Banfield received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Geology from the Australian National University. She completed a PhD in Earth and Planetary Science at Johns Hopkins University in 1990, and from 1990-2001 she was a professor in the Geology, Geophysics and Materials Science Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since then, she has been a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and an affiliate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Professor Banfield has been honoured with numerous prestigious awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship (1999-2004), The Dana Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America (2010), and a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2000.)  She was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2006.

Together with Professor Banfield, the other Laureates recognised for their scientific achievements include:


Professor Faiza AL-KHARAFI

Professor of Chemistry, Kuwait University, Safat, KUWAIT

For her work on corrosion, a problem of fundamental importance to water treatment and the oil industry.


Professor Vivian Wing-Wah YAM

Professor of Chemistry and Energy, The University of Hong Kong, CHINA
For her work on light-emitting materials and innovative ways of capturing solar energy.


Professor Anne L’HUILLIER

Professor of Atomic Physics, Lund University, Sweden

For her work on the development of the fastest camera for recording events in attoseconds (a billionth of a billionth of a second).


Professor Silvia TORRES-PEIMBERT

Professor Emeritus, Institute of Astronomy, Mexico City University (UNAM), Mexico City, Mexico

For her work on the chemical composition of nebulae which is fundamental to our understanding of the origin of the universe.

A pioneering program

For the past 13 years, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation and UNESCO have sought to recognize women researchers who, through the scope of their work, have contributed to overcoming the global challenges of tomorrow. Each year, the For Women in Science Program highlights scientific excellence and encourages talent.

Faced with global challenges such as the acceleration of new technologies, aging populations or the threat to biodiversity, L’Oréal and UNESCO remain convinced that these women researchers will have a major impact on society and lay the foundations for the future. As such, L’Oréal and UNESCO want to contribute to their recognition and provide them with the means to continue their commitment to science with energy and passion.

In 13 years, the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards have recognised 67 Laureates, two of whom received the Nobel Prize in 2009, and 864 Fellowships have been granted to young women scientists from 93 countries so that they can continue their research projects. As a result, the program has become a benchmark of scientific excellence on an international scale, revealing the contributions of these scientific women each year.

Press Contacts:

Niall Byrne, Science in Public,
Megan Ryan, L’Oréal Australia,