Harvard Researcher Wins L’Oréal’s ‘Women in Science’ Fellowship

Lauren O'Connell won $60,000 for her work studying poison dart frogs.

A Harvard researcher studying poison dart frogs in the Amazon won a $60,000 grant from L’Oréal, called the Women in Science Fellowship. Yes, that L’Oréal: the skin care and makeup company.

L’Oreal has a vested interest in science, obviously, since so many of us are lathering the company’s products all over our bodies. The company manages a Candy Land of beauty brands, including: Clarisonic, Essie, Garnier, Kérastase, Kiehl’s, Lancôme, L’Oréal Paris, Maybelline New York, Redken, Urban Decay, and Yves Saint Laurent Beauté.

The Women in Science Fellowship recognizes five United States-based female scientists working in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Lauren O’Connell, a biologist at Harvard University, was one of the five researchers chosen for the award. O’Connell is studying poison dart frogs in the Amazon, looking for new biomedical discoveries and ways to improve conservation. She also recognized that these tropical creatures could be an important introduction to science for young people, due to the frogs’ cool colors. That’s why she founded the “Little Froggers School Program,” where she partners with science teachers working in K-12 grades in New England to incorporate science into public school classrooms.

Award winners received a $60,000 gift to continue their research. In addition to O’Connell, the following female researchers were also chosen:

Katie Brenner, University of Wisconsin-Madison – A bioengineer who developed a technique to enable early diagnosis of neonatal infections, Dr. Brenner’s research is already generating results that will change the standard of neonatal care and help save babies’ lives. In addition to mentoring undergraduate women researchers, Brenner also works with a local high school teacher on developing a series of laboratory experiments designed to bring cutting-edge science to a rural population.

Livia Eberlin, Stanford University – After discovering the limitations of cancer diagnosis methods currently used today, Dr. Eberlin developed her own technique to more efficiently diagnose and evaluate cancer – a technique that’s already improving stomach cancer surgery results in a pilot program at Stanford. Eberlin also serves as a mentor to a female scientist through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Exceptional Research Opportunities Program, which provides undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds with summer research experiences.

Jenny Laaser, University of Minnesota – A physical chemist investigating how positively charged particles interact with negatively charged polymers like DNA, Dr. Laaser’s research will impact future efforts to design gene therapies. Laaser is also active in her university’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) group, where she helps lead “Cool Chemistry,” an outreach event that brings local middle school girls to campus for chemistry activities and demonstrations.

Sabrina Stierwalt, University of Virginia – Dr. Stierwalt is an astrophysicist leading a multi-university team on ground-breaking research to understand how galaxies were formed. Stierwalt has been committed to promoting STEM education throughout her career, including her time as cofounder of the Graduate Women in Physics at Cornell and her current role as a volunteer teacher for Dark Skies, Bright Kids, an after-school program for underserved rural students.