L'Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Awards Names Professor Jill Banfield, The University of California, Berkeley, 2011 Laureate for North America

13th Annual L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards Recognize Five Exceptional Women Scientists Worldwide
Mar 7, 2011 1:30 PM ET

(3BL Media / theCSRfeed) New York, N.Y. and Paris, France (March 7, 2011) – Professor Jillian Banfield, Professor of Earth and Planetary Science, of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, and of Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, has been named the 2011 North American Laureate at the 13th Annual L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards, held March 3, 2011 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. 

Professor Ahmed Zewail, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and President of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards Jury, hosted the ceremony where Professor Banfield was recognized among the five Laureates of the 2011 program.  Each year, five outstanding women scientists – one per continent – are honored for the contributions of their research, the strength of their commitments and their impact on society.  With the Marie Curie Nobel Centenary being celebrated in 2011, this year the For Women in Science program has a particularly strong resonance, placing women and chemistry at the heart of science today.  Each Laureate received their award from Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO and Lindsay Owen-Jones, Chairman of L’Oréal and L’Oréal Foundation, along with $100,000 in recognition of her contributions to science. 

“Only 10% of university professors and fewer than 5% of science academics are women; so much talent is wasted because girls turn away from these types of fields,” commented Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO.   “By encouraging women in science & technology we hope to change the face of research.”  

“More than ever, the world needs science and science needs women; it also needs heart and passion,” commented Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, Chairman of L’Oréal and the L’Oréal Foundation. “Today, our For Women in Science programme is a great success. Among all the initiatives that I have had the chance to develop, it is most certainly the one which brings me the most joy, and of which I am the most proud.” 

More than 1,000 high-level scientists from around the world were involved in the nomination of the Awards’ candidates, who come from five continents.  The International Awards Jury, comprised of 16 eminent members of the scientific community, and presided over by Professor Ahmed Zewail then selected the five women researchers in the Physical Sciences as the Laureates of the 2011 Awards.  Their pioneering projects contribute to finding solutions to major challenges for our planet. 


 Professor Banfield is a geomicrobiologist and biogeochemist whose work focuses on the fundamental relationship between microorganisms and their natural environments.  Professor Banfield was selected for her work on bacterial and material behavior under extreme conditions relevant to the environment and the Earth. 

“Human societies urgently need to develop ways to function in a sustainable manner,” said Professor Banfield. “I hope my work will help to elucidate the many and complex interconnections between physical, chemical, and biological processes, so that we can better understand the impacts of our choices and find better ways of meeting the needs of people and the biosphere as a whole.  Moreover, I hope my work and this wonderful recognition will play a role in helping other women, regardless of age, follow their passion for science.” 

Originally from Australia, Professor Banfield received her bachelor's and master's degrees in Geology from the Australian National University. She completed a PhD in Earth and Planetary Science at Johns Hopkins University in 1990, and from 1990-2001 she was a professor in the Geology, Geophysics and Materials Science Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since then, she has been a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and an affiliate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  

Professor Banfield has been honored with numerous prestigious awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship (1999-2004), The Dana Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America (2010), and a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2000.)  She was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2006. Video available for download at: https://sharing.oodrive.com/easyshare/fwd/link=3a7UjtSEI_UwTm9IQmYa5B 

Along with Professor Banfield, the other Laureates recognized for their scientific achievements include:  


Professor Faiza AL-KHARAFI

Professor of Chemistry, Kuwait University, Safat, KUWAIT

For her work on corrosion, a problem of fundamental importance to water treatment and the oil industry.



Professor Vivian Wing-Wah YAM

Professor of Chemistry and Energy, The University of Hong Kong, CHINA
For her work on light-emitting materials and innovative ways of capturing solar energy.



Professor Anne L’HUILLIER

Professor of Atomic Physics, Lund University, Sweden

For her work on the development of the fastest camera for recording events in attoseconds (a billionth of a billionth of a second).



Professor Silvia TORRES-PEIMBERT

Professor Emeritus, Institute of Astronomy, Mexico City University (UNAM), Mexico City, Mexico

For her work on the chemical composition of nebulae which is fundamental to our understanding of the origin of the universe. 



For the past 13 years, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation and UNESCO have sought to recognize women researchers who, through the scope of their work, have contributed to overcoming the global challenges of tomorrow.  Each year, the For Women in Science Program highlights scientific excellence and encourages talent.

Faced with global challenges such as the acceleration of new technologies, aging populations or the threat to biodiversity, L’Oréal and UNESCO remain convinced that these women researchers will have a major impact on society and lay the foundations for the future. As such, L’Oréal and UNESCO want to contribute to their recognition and provide them with the means to continue their commitment to science with energy and passion.

In 13 years, the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards have recognized 67 Laureates, two of whom received the Nobel Prize in 2009, and 864 Fellowships have been granted to young women scientists from 93 countries so that they can continue their research projects. As a result, the program has become a benchmark of scientific excellence on an international scale, revealing the contributions of these scientific women each year.



The L'Oréal Foundation, created in 2007, pursues the goal of making the world a better place each day. It draws on the Group's values and business to strengthen and perpetuate the Group’s commitment to social responsibility.

As the second-largest corporate foundation in France with a multi-annual budget of €40 million, the L'Oréal Foundation is committed to three types of action: promoting scientific research in the fundamental and human sciences, supporting education and helping individuals made vulnerable by alternations to their appearance to reclaim their rightful place in society.



Since its creation in 1945, UNESCO has pursued its mission of promoting science at the service of sustainable development and peace. It stresses policies and the reinforcement of capacities in science, technology and innovation, science education, sustainable management of freshwater and ocean and terrestrial resources, the protection of biodiversity and lastly climate change. The Organization also has an overarching objective to eliminate all forms of discrimination and to promote equality between men and women, especially in scientific research.