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New award honors Latin American women in science

by Alexandra A. Taylor
October 15, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 39


Three women scientists from Latin America have been recognized with the inaugural 2021 Latin American Women in Chemistry Awards.

A photo of Clarissa Piccinin Frizzo.
Credit: Courtesy of Clarissa Piccinin Frizzo
Clarissa Piccinin Frizzo
A photo of Hilda Elisa Garay Pérez.
Credit: Courtesy of Hilda Elisa Garay Pérez
Hilda Elisa Garay Pérez
A photo of Marta Irene Litter.
Credit: Courtesy of Marta Irene Litter
Marta Irene Litter

The winners are Clarissa Piccinin Frizzo of the Federal University of Santa Maria, Hilda Elisa Garay Pérez of the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology at BioCubaFarma, and Marta Irene Litter of the National University of San Martín and the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) of Argentina. María Julia Culzoni of the National University of Litoral and CONICET, Fabiana del Valle Sánchez of Noroeste Nutrición, and Vanderlan da Silva Bolzani of Institute of Chemistry at São Paulo State University received special recognition. The winners were announced on Oct. 15 during the 34th Latin American Congress of Chemistry (CLAQ 2020) and will be honored at a virtual event on Nov. 16.

The awards are designed to promote gender equality in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in Latin America and to highlight the impact of diversity on scientific research in the field of chemistry. They are an expansion of the Brazilian Women in Chemistry Awards, which were first held in 2018. The new awards are presented by the American Chemical Society and the Latin American Federation of Chemical Associations (FLAQ) and sponsored by the Colombian Society of Chemical Sciences (SCCQ); CAS, a division of ACS; and Chemical & Engineering News. Each winner receives a $2,000 cash prize, a SciFinder ID valid for 1 year, a 3-year ACS membership, an award certificate, and a free course subscription through the ACS Institute.

“The first edition of the Latin American Women in Chemistry awards within the framework of CLAQ 2020 is the best opportunity to show the huge amount of amazing scientific work that many women around Latin America have done during the last four decades,” says Diana Cristina Sinuco León, president of SCCQ and FLAQ. “There were almost 80 nominees in three categories: 7 for Industry Leader, 34 for Academic Leader, and 37 for Emerging Leader in Chemistry.”

“I’m delighted that FLAQ and ACS have partnered to present the Latin American Women in Chemistry Awards. This collaboration among sister societies in the continent has been a long time coming, and I’m glad that celebrating diversity and promoting equity in the chemical sciences are some of the main themes of the partnership,” says Bibiana Campos Seijo, editor in chief of C&EN. “And the first edition of the awards has gone well beyond my expectations in terms of support and participation by the community. The judges were so impressed with the quality of the nominations that they decided to award special recognitions in the three categories. Latin America has talent in spades.”

Piccinin Frizzo is the winner in the Emerging Leader in Chemistry category. The award recognizes the achievements of an outstanding young chemical scientist or entrepreneur younger than 45 and no more than 10 years removed from earning a PhD. Piccinin Frizzo was also awarded Emerging Leader in Chemistry & Related Sciences in the Brazilian Women in Chemistry awards in 2018. She is being honored for her leadership in the design, synthesis, and characterization of the physical properties of ionic liquids and their application as biomaterials.

Garay Pérez is the winner in the Industry Leader category. The award recognizes an individual working in the chemical industry whose research and creative innovations have led to discoveries that contributed to commercial success and to the good of the community and society. Garay Pérez is recognized for her work in the chemical synthesis of peptides and their modifications—in particular, for the development of therapeutic peptides for cancer, infectious diseases, autoimmune disorders, and as therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines. Garay Pérez participated in the development of peptide CIGB-258, which inhibits hyperinflammation in patients with COVID-19. The treatment received an emergency use authorization to treat serious and critical patients in Cuba and other Latin American countries.

Litter is the winner in the Academic Leader category. The award recognizes an established academic who has made an important contribution with a global and societal impact on scientific research in chemistry or a related science. Litter is recognized for her work on new technologies for the removal of metals from water through studies of advanced reduction-oxidation processes.

The awards will be held every 2 years alongside the CLAQ conference. Nominations for the second edition of the awards will begin in June 2022.

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