TWAS honors high-level science

The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) has named the winners of its major 2017 prizes, led by Argentine geoscientist Victor Alberto Ramos, recipient of the prestigious TWAS-Lenovo Prize. While the winners work in different fields, they have one thing in common: their work contributes significantly to the well-being of human communities in the developing world.

The winners include four men and three women from seven countries. The prizes were announced in December, culminating in the announcement of the winners of the TWAS-Lenovo Prize and the Siwei Cheng Prize in Economic Sciences on Wednesday 13 December at the annual meeting of the TWAS Council, this year in Trieste, Italy.

"Our winners this year reflect the diversity and the highly positive impact of research being conducted today in the developing world, including work by scientists in the Least Developed Countries," said TWAS President Bai Chunli. "Through their commitment to excellence, they have emerged as leaders in global efforts to address many important challenges, and they undoubtedly serve as an inspiration to their colleagues and students."

The 2017 winners:

TWAS-Lenovo Prize: Argentine geoscientist Victor Alberto Ramos was named the winner for his work on the formation of the Andes, both shedding light on the story behind his home continent and revealing the cause of strong earthquakes along the mountain range. Ramos' work has valuable practical applications in fields ranging from copper mining to earthquake preparedness. The TWAS-Lenovo Prize, with an award of USD100,000, is one of the most prestigious honours given to scientists from developing nations.

TWAS-C.N.R. Rao Prize: Kalulu Taba, a 2015 TWAS Fellow and organic chemist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was honoured for his contributions to the knowledge of natural products that help treat malaria and disinfect water. His work tests local herbal medicine traditions, such as those practiced by trusted community members to treat diseases, to scientifically demonstrate their effectiveness so that they can be more broadly used.

TWAS-Fayzah M. Al-Kharafi Prize: Yemeni microbiologist Fathiah Zakham was recognised for efforts to develop faster ways of studying and testing tuberculosis, which can help researchers to track drug-resistance in the disease. With her home country torn by war, Zakham is currently working in Switzerland, she remains focused on conditions at home, researching ways to improve tuberculosis prevention. The annual Al-Kharafi Prize honours exceptional women scientists from scientifically and technologically lagging countries.

TWAS-Atta-ur-Rahman Prize: Chemist Rémy Bertrand Teponno won for discovering new compounds from Cameroonian plants and microorganisms that could help treat common diseases or address the rising threat of antibiotic resistance that complicates infectious disease treatment worldwide. The annual Rahman Prize recognises the achievements of a chemist under the age of 40 who has been living and working a science- and technology-lagging country.

TWAS-Samira Omar Innovation for Sustainability Prize: Caroline Asiimwe, a veterinarian and environmental researcher from Uganda, was honoured for her efforts to engage Ugandan refugees and poachers with wildlife conservation. The strategy has fostered an unprecedented exchange of knowledge between scientists and indigenous people. Asiimwe is the first winner of the TWAS-Omar Prize, which honours scientists from Least Developed Countries for achievements in conservation and management of natural resources.

TWAS-Abdool Karim Prize: Barbara Burmen, a Kenyan epidemiologist, was honoured for her innovative approaches to HIV testing in the Kenyan population, for her research on tuberculosis, and for her mentorship activity with younger colleagues. She is the first-ever recipient of the new award, which honours women scientists in Low-Income African countries for their achievements in biological sciences.

TWAS-Siwei Cheng Prize in Economic Sciences: Arunava Sen of India, a pioneer in "game theory', was honoured for developing theories that analyze how institutions function, and how people who govern and operate within those institutions strategize to get the outcomes they desire. He receives the first ever TWAS-Siwei Cheng Prize, honouring the late and renowned Chinese economist Siwei Cheng (1935-2015).

Also Wednesday, the TWAS Council meeting in Trieste, Italy, named the winners of the 2018 TWAS Prizes. The TWAS Prizes honour scientists whose research has a strong and positive impact in the developing world. Among them were scientists researching in nine different fields. They are: Zhang Dabing, China (Agricultural Sciences); Luisa Lina Vila Brazil (Biology); Thalappil Pradeep, India (Chemistry); Zhao Guochun, China and Alejandro Raga, Mexico (Earth, Astronomy and Space Sciences – shared); Tseng Yu-Chee,Taiwan, and Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay, India (Engineering Sciences – shared); Ricardo Guillermo Durán, Argentina (Mathematics); Lynn Morris, South Africa and Seza Õzen, Turkey (Medical Sciences – shared); Daniel Mario Ugarte, Brazil (Physics): Alex Chika Ezeh, Kenya and Lui Yansui, China (Social Sciences – shared).

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