Department of Mechanical Engineering

L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Program Honors Five Trailblazing Arab Female Scientists from the GCC

January 16, 2023
KU students Ayesha Abdulla Alkhoori, Mechanical Engineering (leftmost) and Hessa Ebrahim Ali Alfalahi, Biomedical Engineering (2nd from left) with the other L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science honorees.


The exceptional scientists received grants totaling EUR 76,000 to further their innovative research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) 


In its ninth year, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Program, in partnership with Khalifa University of Science and Technology, has honored five visionary women from the GCC region to recognize, and support furthering their groundbreaking research in the fields of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Science. 


The regional program is part of the L’Oréal-UNESCO’s global For Women in Science initiative that has already recognized over 3,900 phenomenal researchers and more than 100 Laureates from more than 110 countries and regions since its inception in 1998. 


This year, grants were awarded to Post-doctorate Researchers Dr. Maha Zakariya Yahya Al-Riyami (Oman), Dr. Raefa Abou Khouzam (UAE) and Dr. Fatiha M. Benslimane (Qatar), who received EUR 20,000 each; and PhD students Hessa Ebrahim Ali Alfalahi (UAE) and Ayesha Abdulla Alkhoori (UAE), who were awarded EUR 8,000 each in their category. These women are playing a pivotal role in addressing critical global issues and paving the way forward for more young women to enter STEM fields. Since its inception in the region, the program has recognized 45 researchers from the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. 


The program continues to receive the endorsement, for the fourth year in a row, of H.E. Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, who said: “Fondation L’Oréal and UNESCO’s initiative to recognize young women scientists is a strong validation of their contribution at every level of STEM. Over the past few years, we have seen a healthy increase in the representation of women in these fields, but we know that there is a lot more work that needs to be done to foster a more inclusive, diverse and career progression for them. Creating opportunities such as this is the essential first step to encouraging more young women researchers to push ahead and make a mark in the science and technology fields.” 


Her Excellency added: “The Arab world has no dearth of pioneering women scientists, and their work has played a key role in addressing issues that impact global society.” 


The latest UNESCO Science Report recognizes the effort of many countries in the Arab world for achieving gender parity at the university level. The gap, however, widens as women enter the workplace with several barriers that set them back in their careers. Women researchers were found to have shorter, less well-paid positions, and were given smaller grants than their male counterparts. 


The driving ethos behind the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Program is ‘The world needs science and science needs women’. The program was created to break down barriers to progress for women in STEM and provide them with the tools to succeed. 


Laurent Duffier, L’Oréal Middle East Managing Director, said that the initiative has been instrumental in unearthing the brightest minds and inspiring careers for future generations.


“The program has grown from strength-to-strength and so has the number of women scientists who are leading people-centered research and development. At L’Oréal Groupe, science and innovation are at the heart of everything that we do. Enabling and empowering emerging female scientists and their cutting-edge research is a mission that we are committed to, especially in this region where contributions by women scientists are vital to solutions for the emerging world. Our winners represent the most ambitious and passionate women in the region who are not deterred by any hurdle in their pursuit and commitment to finding novel solutions to problems that impact our communities, while also being a beacon of empowerment for young girls embarking on their careers in STEM.” 


Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, said: “We only need to look within our own research-intensive academic institution to gauge the immense potential among the region’s women researchers who are ready to seize every opportunity to make a difference in our societies. Khalifa University itself can proudly boast several high-profile women scientists among our faculty and researchers. Now more than ever, we need women to take the lead in driving the Industry 4.0 revolution and are proud to partner with the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science in the Middle East for the fourth year in a row to nurture their career development. The UAE has made great strides in ensuring equality and representation across the board, right from the education level to women spearheading key scientific and technological advancements, which has enhanced its global competitiveness. More such initiatives across the region and globally will secure a diverse and talented workforce in science and technology.” 


Professor Mouïn Hamzé, President of Program’s Jury, added: “Equity, diversity and inclusion are the cornerstones of science and research. Women bring to the table perspectives and diverse viewpoints that are imperative to finding innovative solutions for pressing global issues, such as climate change, food insecurity, pandemics, future tech and cybersecurity. This program has successfully built a network of bright minds who have contributed to many advancements in these areas and continues to turn the tide on underrepresentation in the STEM fields by encouraging young women to pursue careers that respond to the needs of the society.”  


About the 2022 Middle East Regional Young Talents:

PhD students:

  •         Hessa Ebrahim Ali Alfalahi (UAE): For her research on early detection and diagnosis of depression and Parkinson’s disease using smartphone data collected in-the-wild through novel Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms
  •         Ayesha Abdulla Alkhoori (UAE): For her research on converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into clean fuel to alleviate global warming and provide a solution for the energy depletion crisis

Post-doctorate researchers:

  •         Dr. Maha Zakariya Yahya Al-Riyami (Oman): For her research on investigating somatic mutations in type 1 diabetes that can lead to new avenues for autoimmunity research.
  •         Dr. Raefa Abou Khouzam (UAE): For her research on investigating new treatment strategies to counter pancreatic cancer growth and evolution
  •         Dr. Fatiha M. Benslimane (Qatar) : For her research on developing a fast, reliable and cost-effective protocol for microbial analysis to allow real-time diagnosis

The 9th edition of the program housed an impressive jury of eight renowned experts from prestigious institutions in the Middle East including:

  •         Dr. Mouin Hamze, President of the Jury, Former Secretary General of the National Council for Scientific Research, Lebanon.
  •         Dr. Maha Al Mozaini, King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center, KSA.
  •         Dr. Thurayya Arayssi, Weill Cornell Medical College, Qatar.
  •         Dr. Ameenah Farhan, Kuwait University and Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS), Kuwait.
  •         Dr. Habiba Al Safar, Khalifa University, UAE.
  •         Dr. Fatma Taher, Zayed University, UAE.
  •         Dr. Ramia AlBakain, The University of Jordan, Jordan.