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PhD candidate awarded coveted Women in Science prize
Author: FMHS Marketing & Communications
Published: 10/11/2023

Esther Uwimaana is one of 30 women scientists on the continent being recognised for their work by the 14th L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Young Talents Sub-Saharan Africa Awards.

Uwimaan, who hails from Uganda, is working towards her PhD in Molecular Biology at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), where she is conducting research on potential vaccines for tuberculosis.

Each year, the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Young Talents Sub-Saharan Africa Awards recognise and support African women scientists for the excellence of their research. The 30 winners—of which 25 are PhD candidates and five postdoctoral researchers—have been selected among 632 applicants.

“As bearers of hope and innovative solutions for the African continent, the 30 scientists of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2023 Young Talents Sub-Saharan Africa Awards are investing in multiple fields of research. Using unprecedented approaches, they tackle major challenges to improve the quality of life in Africa and worldwide," reads a statement issued by the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science.

“The 30 young talents—biochemists, epidemiologists, ecologists, artificial intelligence experts and public health specialists—from 18 different African countries are all committed to finding long-term solutions to the continent's diverse challenges. They are all a real source of inspiration for future generations."

Explaining her research, Uwimaana, says she is examining the potential of Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigens as vaccines against tuberculosis. “This involves priming human immune cells with mycobacterial proteins and peptides, followed by challenging the human cells with bacteria and observing whether these cells kill the bacteria," she explains. “My findings could be used to develop effective vaccines to keep people safe from tuberculosis and contribute to the fight against infectious diseases."

As for her chosen career path in science, Uwimaana says she feels privileged to be able to inspire girls in her village, and showing them that a career in science is possible. “The increase in opportunities for women is gradually breaking societal norms, however we still need to convince African families of the value of girls' education, create more role models and enable women scientists to work free of inequality and discrimination."

The L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Young Talents Sub-Saharan Africa Awards enable its laureates to benefit from financial support to help them conduct their research projects—grants of €10 000 (nearly R200 000) for PhD candidates and €15 000 (nearly R300 000) for postdoctoral researchers. The 2023 Young Talents' cohort will join a community of more than 200 African researchers who have been supported an honoured since the creation of this regional programme in 2010.

“Enabling women scientists to emerge in the public arena and be recognised for the quality of their work requires urgent action. It's everyone's responsibility—institutions, companies and civil society. Neither Africa nor the world can successfully respond to the environmental, societal, health crises of our time by depriving itself of half of the humanity," says Alexandra Palt, CEO of the Fondation L'Oréal.

Caption: Esther Uwimaana.​