University of Glasgow researchers win national L’Oréal-UNESCO Rising Talent Awards

Two University of Glasgow researchers have been named among the six winners of the 2022 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science UK and Ireland Rising Talents Awards.

Dr Rachel Montgomery, an experimental nuclear physicist in the School of Physics & Astronomy, and Dr Christina Faust, a landscape disease ecologist in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine, received their awards at a reception hosted in the House of Commons in London on Tuesday 24thMay.

The award includes a £15,000 Fellowship to support a 12-month period of research.

The UK and Ireland Rising Talents Programme is the national chapter of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science partnership, which was founded in 1998. It is designed to provide flexible and practical financial support, alongside tools and support, for early career women scientists to pursue their research.

The awards are presented to outstanding women postdoctoral scientists in the fields of physical science, engineering, mathematics and computing, life science and sustainable development.

Dr Faust obtained a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University in 2016 and has conducted postdoctoral research on the environmental drivers of zoonotic disease at Oxford University, Montana State University and Penn State University. She is currently a NERC Independent Research Fellow and is supported by a University of Glasgow Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Leadership Fellowship.

Her research integrates field studies, population genetics and mathematical modelling to find nature-based solutions for mitigating zoonotic disease emergence in human populations. Her research proposal aims to identify mechanisms and key environmental features that minimise rodent viral zoonoses in restored forests.

Dr Faust said: I’m very grateful to receive this award and honoured to be included among many other talented women leading their fields. The L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science provides support for exciting new research but has also built a network of women in science across the UK and Ireland and in 50 regions around thr world. The financial award comes at a critical point in my career and will create new opportunities for me to develop my research portfolio and contribute to new areas.

"A wonderful senior female mentor at Glasgow originally encouraged me to apply. I-ve been lucky to have many female role models in my science career. My school teachers encouraged my interest in science and having support early on was crucial to my choice of studies at university. I am also grateful to work in an Institute (IBAHCM) that has an Athena SWAN Silver Award and is constantly working to improve inclusion in the workplace.

"This award enables an exciting new research area for me - investigating how reforestation can be leveraged to reduce zoonotic (animal to human) disease emergence. Forest restoration is a key priority in Scotland. These policies have immense potential to prevent zoonotic emergence and I am committed to identifying the types and locations of interventions that will provide the most benefits for global health. Th mechanisms affecting viral diversity and zoonotic risk from wildlife populations during restoration activities are currently unknown, but this funding from L’Oreal-UNESCO will help address this key knowledge gap. -

Dr Montgomery received a PhD from the University of Glasgow, before being awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics. She is currently a UKRI STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellow, and her research is further supported by a University of Glasgow Lord Kelvin/Adam Smith Leadership Fellowship.

Her research aims to further our fundamental understanding of the sub-atomic particles which bind together to form nuclei. She is developing new detectors to measure these particles and is particularly interested in transferring these advanced technologies to societal applications - for example, into the field of nuclear medicine.

Dr Montgomery said: -I am delighted and very honoured to receive this award, which recognises and promotes the achievements of women in science. I am proud that my work contributes to a more inclusive society and the message that all people must enjoy equal opportunities and choices as equal citizens. Women scientists are leading ground-breaking research across the world. However, despite their discoveries women still only represent one third of researchers globally* and less than 4% of Nobel Prizes for science have ever been awarded to women. It is an honour to be acknowledged as one of the many researchers who are helping to change the world through scientific discovery, and who can be used as role models for younger generations of women researchers.

-I would not be where I am today without the strong, positive influence of female physicists. I hope this award will likewise assist me, in my role as an ambassador for physics, in doing the same. I am also very pleased to represent my colleagues within the University of Glasgow School of Physics and Astronomy, who have supported me and who are involved in work all year round to promote, enhance and encourage women pursuing careers in science.

-This award represents a wonderful opportunity for me to enhance my research profile. It further empowers my existing research independence, by enabling me to pursue an exciting new project, one which I am very passionate about. My research studies the nature of the sub-atomic particles which bind together to form atomic nuclei, the building blocks of all visible matter in our Universe. I aim to develop, for upcoming experiments, a novel instrument to map out the paths of sub-atomic particles very precisely, to measure what is happening during those experiments. The experiments seek to offer new insights into the strong force of nature binding these particles, and nuclei, together. Further understanding of the strong force will help us to learn more about how our Universe developed. I also plan to explore how this device could be used in other applications, such as particle beam dosimetry in radiotherapy. This award could now provide new opportunities and avenues for my career as a nuclear physicist. I cannot wait to start working on it and see where it leads to.-

Thierry Cheval, L’Oréal UK and Ireland, Managing Director said: -The 2022 Rising Talents are working on some of the biggest challenges that the world faces today including environmental and health challenges where their research advances could benefit us all. We are proud to be championing another group of exceptional For Women in Science Fellows.-

James Bridge, UK National Commission for UNESCO, Chief Executive Officer and Secretary-General, said: -Congratulations to the 2022 Fellows. We are very proud to be able to support these outstanding researchers to undertake the ground-breaking work that they do. There is still much more to be done to achieve true gender equality in science but it is clear that, as a global community, we must recognise and promote the achievements of women scientists.-

The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science partnership aims to empower more women scientists to achieve scientific excellence and participate equally in solving the great challenges facing humanity.

The University of Glasgow is a registered Scottish charity: Registration Number SC004401

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