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L’OREAL-UNESCO For Women in Science

The Belgian L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Grants, allocated under the auspices of the F.R.S.-FNRS and the FWO, make up the national L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme. Created in 2007, the Belgian grants are awarded every two years to three young women for the excellence of their work, their courage and their commitment in carrying out life science research.

Marie Curie was born 150 years ago. She blazed a trail in science for many other women, including her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie. Between them, they hold 3 of the 18 Nobel Prizes awarded to women since their creation in 1901. Today only 28%[1] of researchers are women. This is why, for 19 years now, the L’Oréal Foundation has worked alongside UNESCO to increase the role of women in scientific research. By awarding prizes and grants, the L’Oréal Foundation and UNESCO reward and support the careers of the best and most promising women in science.

Since 2001, 2,820 exceptional women scientists from 115 countries have been supported by the L’Oréal Foundation and UNESCO. Among them, 97 recipients were rewarded for the excellent quality of their scientific work, and two of them have been awarded Nobel Prizes. The grants are helping more than 2,700 promising young women in 45 countries around the world accomplish their thesis or post doctorate, ensuring they can research the science of tomorrow. In 2017, 275 grants were awarded to 9,000 applicants worldwide, 3 of whom were in Belgium.


Things have changed over the last 20 years, there are now more women in research—they now represent 28% of the workforce, up from 25%—but it has to be said that progress has been slow. Many prejudices still exist. A study done for the L’Oréal Foundation found that more that 90% of Europeans believe that women are good at everything except science. Initiatives such as For Women in Science, which highlight exceptional women researchers and encourage promising women researchers, are still necessary.

Brigitte Bekaert, Corporate Communication, L’Oréal Belgilux.



At the end of the deliberation by the Belgian Panel which met at the headquarters of L’Oréal Belgilux in Brussels on October 11, three outstanding young women were awarded one of the three Belgian Grants for Women in Science.

pdfBrochure pdf

Members of the Panel


Prof. Christine Van Broeckhoven
Universiteit Antwerpen
President of the Panel
Professor of Molecular and Genetic Biology
Research Director of the Laboratoire de
Neurogénétique, in the Institut Born-Bunge
2006 winner of the
L’Oréal-UNESCO International Prize For Women in Science
for Europe

Prof. Dr. Stanilas Goriely
Université Libre de Bruxelles
FNRS Senior Research Associate 
Institut d’Immunologie médicale (IMI)

Prof. Dr. Patrick Santens
Universitair Ziekenhuis Gent
Head of the Neurology Department
Senior Chair Researcher FWO

Prof. Dr. Olivier Vanderveken
Universitair Ziekenhuis Antwerpen
Head of the department of otorhinolaryngology and craniofacial surgery
Professor at Antwerp University
President of the Translational Neuroscience Research Group at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science

Dr. Yaël NAZE
Université de Liège
FNRS Senior Research Associate 
Groupe d’Astrophysique des Hautes Energies
Dept A.G.O. - UR STAR

Prof. Dr. Hilde Heynen
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Professor of the Theory of Architecture

Prof. Dr. René Rezsohazy
Université Catholique de Louvain
Professor of Biology
Louvain Institute of Biomolecular Science and Technology (LIBST)

Aurélia NGOKO
L’Oréal Belgilux
Scientific & Regulatory Affairs Specialist
L’Oréal Belgilux
M.Sc. Biomedical Science



Tine D’aes

Giga Institute, Université de Liège

Will attempt to unravel the mysteries surrounding the cell death of neurons in the brain after an ischaemic stroke.
+Tine D’aes

Paulien Jansen

Universiteit Gent

Will study the theory of “buildings”, a vast area of research in the field of mathematics, which touches on pure theory.
+Paulien Jansen

Emilie Pollenus

Rega Institute, KU Leuven

Would like to highlight the processes that lead to the death of some patients with malaria, mainly the complications that affect the lungs.
+Emilie Pollenus


Each research fund presents 10 candidates to the national L’Oréal-UNESCO panel. The panel, headed by Christine Van Broeckhoven, recipient of the 2006 L’Oréal-UNESCO Award, is made up of distinguished scientists representing the National UNESCO Commissions, the F.R.S.-FNRS and the FWO.


A celebration was held for the three female scientists on Thursday 5 October in the Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth. Each recipient received a €60,000 grant to undertake their doctorate. Over 10 years and 6 editions, the members of the panel have allocated L’Oréal-UNESCO grants to 18 young female scientists.

“We are very proud of our recipients, who are all strong women with a passion for science. Even if more women today are pursuing studies and careers in science, they still have to fight for their place. The L’Oréal-UNESCO initiative is therefore still crucial in today’s world.” 

- Christine van Broeckhoven, head of the panel and European recipient of the 2006 L’Oréal-UNESCO Award.

PDF (only in FR)

Aurélie De Groote

Graduate in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology (ULB)

Developing a better understanding of our decision-making process and reward-motivated behaviours
The flow of information within the human brain is extremely hard to understand. While some links between various neurological structures are well understood by scientists, others remain mysterious and unpredictable. Such is the case with the striatum. Aurélie De Groote’s carries out essentially fundamental research. Nevertheless, it could have real world applications, such as treating people with addiction problems.

+Aurélie De Groote

Mieke Metzemaekers

Researcher at the Rega Institute (KULeuven)

Understanding why and how our immune system turns on us

Small proteins known as chemokines are involved in many different molecular reactions happening inside us. They control the migration and positioning of immune cells. The goal of this doctoral thesis is to understand the mechanisms concerned, to identify and to quantify chemokines which have undergone mutations and which cause the immune system to malfunction.

+Mieke Metzemaekers

Emmanuelle Wilhelm

Medical graduate and researcher at the Institute of Neuroscience (UCL)

Developing a better understanding of the neural pathways involved in motor control

The slightest movement we make is the result of intense information exchanges happening within our brains. Some of the information triggers a motor action or maintains it, while other information stops it. Through her fundamental research, Emmanuelle Wilhelm wants to achieve a better understanding of specific fundamental neural mechanisms which form the basis of the preparation of an action.


Brussels, 25 September 2015 – Last night, 3 young women scientists were awarded the Belgian L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science grants. These grants, worth €60,000 over 2 years, were awarded for the 5th time under the auspices of the F.R.S.-FNRS and the FWO, and will give these promising young women the chance to undertake their doctorate and their research. The awards come at a symbolic moment, as the L’Oréal Foundation has recently published a study which polled 5,000 Europeans on the subject of the serious under-representation of women in science. The study uncovered the prejudices about women in science which still persist, as well as the public misconception about the scale of the problem.

The three Belgian recipients, as well as the 2250 female scientists helped by the international programme over the last 18 years, are proof that women are not afraid to pursue a career in science despite the obstacles and prejudices they might face.

The panel, headed by Professor Christine Van Broeckhoven, recipient of the 2006 L’Oréal-UNESCO Award, is made up of distinguished scientists representing the National UNESCO Commissions, the F.R.S.-FNRS, the FWO and the L’Oréal Belgilux Science Division. This year’s winners are three exceptional young women.


PDF (only in FR)

The 3 recipients

An Beckers
PhD student in the “Neural Circuit Development & Regeneration” research group (KULeuven)
An wants to understand how the neurons of the zebrafish’s central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) regenerate. The goal of this research is to help patients who have suffered brain damage.
+An Beckers

Noémie Deneyer
PhD student at the Institute of Life Sciences (UCL)

Noémie wants to deepen our understanding of the HOXA2 gene, which is involved in the creation of certain facial bones and the development of the base of the brain, in order to achieve better understanding human embryogenesis.

+Noemie Deneyer

Xenia Geeraerts
PhD student at the Cellular Immunology Laboratory (VUB)

Xenia studies the regulation of tumour-associated macrophages, which are immune cells which can be pro- or anti-tumour. The challenge she has set herself is to find new targets for therapy (the pro-tumour cells) to help fight cancer.

+Xenia Geeraerts



The panel, headed by Professor Christine Van Broeckhoven, recipient of the 2006 L’Oréal-UNESCO Award, is made up of distinguished scientists representing the National UNESCO Commissions, the F.R.S.-FNRS, the FWO and the L’Oréal Belgilux Science Division.


PDF (only in FR)

Roxane Van Heurck

Roxane, a 28-year-old doctor from Brussels, has been specialising in neurology for the past 2 years and works in Professor Abramowicz’s Medical Genetics service at Erasmus Hospital. In October, she began her thesis at the ULB genetic neurodevelopment laboratory headed by Professor Vanderhaeghen.

For her research into the genes involved in neurodevelopment, specifically three genes located on a zone of Chromosome 1, in order to deepen our knowledge of some brain disorders which are still misunderstood and incurable, such as autism and some mental disorders.
+Roxane Van Heurck

Marian Dejaeger

Marian Dejaeger began her specialisation in Internal Medicine three years ago at KULeuven, where last year she combined her training with studying for a PhD.

For her research into new unique therapeutic possibilities to treat osteoporosis and bone metastases, and to improve the healing process of fractured bones.

+Marian Dejaeger

Evelyne Collignon

A graduate in Biomedical Science at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, this 24-year-old researcher has started the second year of her thesis at the ULB epigenetic cancer laboratory headed by Dr. François Fuks.

For her research on the TET1 protein, a molecule which causes a DNA modification (hydroxymethylation) which is linked to breast cancer. If this protein is directly linked, we may in time try to neutralise it.


+Evelyne Collignon

Partnering.  Valuing.  Communicating.  Supporting.  Pushing boundaries. These are the convictions and core values of the L’Oréal Foundation, and they guide its commitment to women throughout the world. 

The L’Oréal Foundation highlights and promotes all the women it partners, through programmes focused on two strong themes: Science and Beauty. 
For Women in Science is a programme that encourages girls in high school to choose science vocations, supports women in research, and recognizes excellence in fields where women are under-represented. 
Through its Beauty For a Better Life programmes, the Foundation helps women affected by illness, economic hardship or isolation, recover their sense of self-esteem and femininity through beauty treatments, which help them feel and live better. 
It also gives women a future by providing training programmes for beauty industry professions.


Since its creation in 1945, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been supporting international scientific cooperation as a catalyst for sustainable development and peace across the world.
UNESCO assists countries in the development of their public policies and capability building in the fields of science, technology, innovation and scientific education.
UNESCO also leads several intergovernmental programmes for the sustainable management of freshwater, ocean and terrestrial resources, the protection of biodiversity and the promotion of the role of science in combating climate change and natural disasters.
In order to meet these goals, UNESCO is committed to both ending discrimination and promoting equality between women and men. 


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