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TWAS Newsletter
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Researchers honoured for bringing science to the people

Researchers honoured for bringing science to the people

TWAS’s Regional Offices have awarded their Regional Prizes this year to five researchers from different regions of the developing world who have worked creatively to popularize science. This year’s winners are from Argentina, Bangladesh, the Philippines, South Africa and Egypt.

TWAS's five Regional Offices review nominations for the awards and send their top choices to TWAS for final approval. They also give the awards to the winning candidates, which are for science education, science popularization or founding scientific institutions, depending on the year. Each regional office is responsible for awarding the TWAS Regional Prize, which also comes with USD3,000.

This year’s prize is for scientists who have aided the public understanding and popularization of science in the developing world, and several of the winners employed books, television and radio to engage the public. Each winner receives his or her prize at an event selected by the corresponding Regional Office, though one winner each year may be asked to present a lecture on their work at the annual General Meeting.

Latin America and the Caribbean Region

This year’s award went to Diego Andres Golombek, a chronobiologist with Universidad Nacional de Quilmes in Argentina, who is probably the most renowned science popularizer in the country. He has written numerous popular science reports in national newspapers and magazines. He’s also the author 13 books popularizing science. He has organized science festivals, science education programs, TEDx events and a teenage science boot camp. Golombek has even won the comedic IgNobel prize in 2007 for a study on synchronizing hamsters’ sleep cycles using Viagra, and has written and hosted science TV shows, including productions for the Discovery Channel and the History Channel. He's the director of the science show “Project G and editor of the popular book series "Science that barks".

Since TWAS’s 24th General Meeting is being held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Golombek will receive his prize at the conference on 1 October and give a lecture on science communication on 4 October. Golombek’s lecture will encourage scientists to view popularization in science and technology as necessary, advocate support for training scientists to engage the public, and suggest that the general public should demand adequate science coverage in the news.

Central And South Asia

The winner is Bangladeshi nuclear physicist Mohammad Shamsher Ali, who has worked as a science communicator for over 30 years in radio and television, including a series on BBC on science and culture. He’s also a strong advocate for literacy and science education, and produced a film for a UNESCO-sponsored 1985 conference at Pune, India, showing that an educated mother at home can teach some of the basic principles of physics, chemistry, and mathematics to her children. Shamsher Ali also produced two TV series about science: “Bigyan Bichitra” (“Varieties of Science”) and “Notun Diganta” (“The New Horizons”) which were widely popular and ran for more than 12 years. He has been a TWAS Fellow since 1989. His experience using electronic media for science communication made him an advocate of the Open University system, which enables education over long distances. He was the founder vice-chancellor of the Bangladesh Open University from 1992 to 1996.

East and South-East Asia and the Pacific

Neuroscientist and molecular biologist Custer C. Deocaris of the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP), received the honour. Deocaris’s work and ability to convey scientific ideas to a general audience has led to him being regularly featured in news outlets of the Philippines and abroad, speaking on issues ranging from dietary practices to neuroscience to climate change. Deocaris also hosts and produces Radyo Agila's “Pinoy Scientist”, a weekly nationwide science radio program in his home country for which he’s received several awards, and a science reporter for the local weekly newspaper, Herald News. His work has inspired physical education teachers in Mindanao, the Philippines, to push for more support from their government for physical education in schools. Deocaris is an active science policy advocate in the Philippines and is the chair of “Luntiang Lunes”, the local chapter of the international movement Meatless Monday. He is also a prolific scientist, with 79 studies published in his field in local and international journals. He presently heads a bioengineering research program at TIP.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, a paleobiologist who leads the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and a global expert on the microscopic structure of vertebrate bones, won the award. Besides authoring two academic books, Chinsamy-Turan has written a popular children’s book, “Famous Dinosaurs of Africa” and served as the Chair of the Advisory Board of Scifest Africa, the continent’s biggest science festival. Both her research and her efforts in communicating science with the public were celebrated by the South African Woman of the Year Award in 2005. She has also been the director of the Iziko Museum’s Natural History Collections. She has been a TWAS fellow since 2009, and discussed her work on how the analysis of fossil bones show scientists how dinosaurs lived and grew at last year’s TWAS General Meeting in Tianjin, China.

Arab Region

The prize was given to Farid A. Badria of the Mansoura University Faculty of Pharmacy in Egypt. Badria’s has contributed much to development of medical sciences in Egypt, including establishing a drug discovery unit from the Egyptian University faculties of science, pharmacy, agriculture and medicine to use their common resources to discover new drugs. He’s also the head of a centre in Mansoura for monitoring pollution in the Mediterranean Sea, Nile River, and Lake Manzala. He's also developed new therapies for liver and skin disorders, and has invented numerous medical devices that have earned him 16 patents, with another 26 submitted to the Egyptian Academy of Sciences. He also has over 100 publications. In 2011, Badria was awarded the Gold Medal from the World Intellectual Property Organization, naming him the best inventor in Egypt in 2011. In 2001, he was awarded in Egypt with the State Recognition Outstanding Award in Medicine, and in 2000 he was recognized in Kuwait as an Outstanding Arab Scholar and in Iran with the Khwarizmi International Award.

Sean Treacy