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Lithuanian Scientists – A PhD in Natural Sciences and A PhD in Biophysics – Honored with Prestigious For Women in Science Awards

8 June 2022 seven outstanding female scientists from the Baltic States have been announced as winners of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Baltic young talent programme “For Women in Science” awards. This year, the awards and EUR 6,000 prizes in Lithuania went to Dr Gintarė Kručaitė and PhD student Greta Jarockytė.

The “For Women in Science” programme encourages talented women scientists to continue their research and honors them for their contribution to society. L’Oréal Baltic implements the programme in cooperation with the Baltic Academies of Sciences and the National UNESCO Commissions.

“Although women’s research has a significant impact on the development of science, women make up only 33% of the scientific community. The main aim of this programme is to increase the recognition of women scientists and their research and to encourage more girls and women to choose a career in science. It is very important and gratifying that Lithuanian women scientists are actively participating in this programme, presenting impressive and significant research addressing today’s most pressing issues,” says Miglė Mašanauskienė, Acting Secretary General of the Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO.

This year’s winners are two Lithuanian researchers – Dr Gintarė Kručaitė and PhD student Greta Jarockytė, as well as Ilze Lihačova, Anda Barkanė and Laura Vitola from Latvia, and Ester Oras and Karolina Kudelina from Estonia. The jury pointed out that the women honoured with the “For Women in Science” Awards are making significant contributions to scientific progress in areas ranging from nanomedicine research in cancer diagnostics and therapy to improving the efficiency of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and prototyping the most efficient devices.

Dr Gintarė Kručaitė says that this award and recognition are very important to her. “This is an extremely significant recognition of my work as a scientist. I have been working in the field of technological sciences for more than ten years, so receiving this award will allow me to continue my work in materials engineering. I hope to inspire other women to learn and pursue a career as a scientist,” said the scientist, who works in the Organic Semiconductors Laboratory at Kaunas University of Technology, and who received the prestigious award.

Photo: Tomas Kauneckas

The winner of the L’Oréal-UNESCO “For Women in Science” programme received the award for her research on new organic electroactive materials for energy-saving OLED technology. Despite recent advances, OLED devices are not enough efficient, as the injection and transport of charges in the devices is hampered by the varying height of the barriers and the low mobility of charges. In order to improve the efficiency of the devices, the synthesis, purification and characterization of new electroactive materials is a major challenge for researchers. Materials research and the design, characterization and optimization of OLED devices are being carried out in order to discover the most efficient materials and to develop the most efficient device prototypes.

Greta Jarockytė, a junior researcher at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and a PhD student in biophysics at Vilnius University, says it is not only an important recognition for her. “It is also an important recognition of the long-standing work of my colleagues at the Biomedical Physics Laboratory in the field of nanomedicine. This award inspires me to continue my research and share my knowledge with the community. I hope that by sharing my experience I can encourage others to choose a career as a researcher. I am honored to receive the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award in Lithuania,” says Jarockytė.

Photo: Tomas Kauneckas

Greta Jarockytė’s PhD research focuses on the application of theranostic nanoparticles in the diagnosis and therapy of oncological diseases. Nanotechnology is one of the most promising areas of modern science for the development of new personalized diagnostic and therapeutic methods. Recently, much effort has been devoted to the study of materials that could be used in combination for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Such theranostic platforms offer a number of advantages, including more accurate diagnosis, specific drug delivery to the tumor and less adverse effects on healthy tissues. The main objective of this study is to develop a next-generation multifunctional nanomaterial and to demonstrate its suitability for in vitro cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Ten Lithuanian researchers have already been awarded for their contribution to science during the six years of the programme in Lithuania. Last year, PhD student Joana Smirnovienė and Dr Ieva Plikusienė were awarded in Lithuania.

In Latvia, the programme was founded by Dr Vaira Vike-Freiberga, patron of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Society and former President of the Republic of Latvia (1999-2007). Today, L’Oréal Baltic implements the For Women in Science programme in cooperation with the Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian Academies of Sciences and the National Commissions for UNESCO in these countries.

It is the only support programme for female researchers in the Baltic States. It promotes their professional development, helping them to reach new goals and create for the benefit of both science and society.

The International For Women in Science Programme was launched in 1998. Since then, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) have made a commitment to increase the number of women in scientific research. For twenty-four years, the L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science programme has been working to honor and accompany women researchers at key moments in their lives, making a significant contribution to the development of science and gender equality in the field.