Dr Sushila Maharjan, a Nepalese scientist, wins The Elsevier Foundation Award 2016

Sushila Maharjan
Sushila Maharjan, recipient of The Elsevier Foundation Award 2016

Shattering all constraints of her developing country and a society in which science is a non-competitive zone, a Nepalese biologist has won the 2016 Elsevier Foundation Awards for her research activities that have strong potential for health and economic benefits.

Dr Sushila Maharjan from Kathmandu was recognised for her work in the field of ‘biochemistry and biotechnology’. She uses soil microbes to develop medically useful chemicals, Elsevier Foundation said in a statement, adding that microbes create materials used in medicine, including antibiotics.

She and four other scholars from Indonesia, Peru, Uganda and Yemen also received their awards on February 13 in a ceremony at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Washington DC.

Dr. Maharjan is currently researching bacterial strains from the high-altitude regions of Nepal to identify substances useful for development of new antibiotics, as well as other medically useful compounds, the statement said. “The most rewarding part of my research is to find novel drugs and antibiotics from Streptomyces bacteria of Nepal that have great potential to combat the emerging drug and antibiotic resistant diseases worldwide,” possibly the first female scientist from Nepal to receive international recognition was quoted as saying.

The Elseiver Foundation Awards
The Elseiver Foundation Awards winners for 2016 in Washington DC

Speaking to US News, she lamented that in Nepal, “people think science is just investment – no earning, no income. They think it’s a waste of money and time.” However, that did not deter her from becoming a person who helped found the Kathmandu-based Research Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology.

The focus area of the Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early Career Women Scientists in the Developing World rotates each year, this year’s being biological sciences.  And winning the competition is not easy, ”A panel of eminent scientists selected each winner based on her achievements.”

The Award comes with a purse of US $5,000 but the organiser also paid for all expenses of Dr Sushila Maharjan as well as of the other four winners for 2016 to attend the annual meeting of the AAAS.

Launched in 2012, The Elsevier Foundation Awards are given to recognize achievements of researchers who have make significant contributions to the advancement of scientific knowledge. The programme is run by The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) and the Elsevier Foundation.

According to EF’s website, the focus area for 2017 will be Engineering Sciences (engineering, innovation and technology) while in 2018, it will be Physical Sciences (chemistry, maths and physics).

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