‘Saudi Arabia gave me the freedom to conduct research,’ says L’Oreal Women in Science laureate in Paris

The event recognized five women scientists for their research in the field of physical sciences, mathematics and computer science. (Supplied)
The event recognized five women scientists for their research in the field of physical sciences, mathematics and computer science. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 June 2023
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‘Saudi Arabia gave me the freedom to conduct research,’ says L’Oreal Women in Science laureate in Paris

‘Saudi Arabia gave me the freedom to conduct research,’ says L’Oreal Women in Science laureate in Paris
  • The event recognized five women scientists for their research in the field of physical sciences, mathematics and computer science
  • “It is a huge honor to represent this country and this region where I have lived for thirteen years. This is my house now,” says Professor Nunes

PARIS: Having lived and conducted research in Saudi Arabia for the past 13 years, Suzanna Nunes, professor of Chemical and Environmental Science and Engineering at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), was made a laureate of the L’Oreal-UNESCO International Award for Women in Science held in Paris.

The event celebrated five women scientists from around the world for their research in the physical sciences, mathematics and computer science.

2023 laureates of the FWIS award

- Prof. Suzana Nunes - Chemistry – Laureate for Africa and the Arab States

- Prof. Anamaria Font – Physics – Laureate for latin America and the Caribbean

- Prof. Aviv Regev – Bioinformatics – Laureate for North America

- Prof. Lidia Morawska - Earth and environmental science – Laureate for Asia and the Pacific

- Prof. Frances Kirwan - Mathematics – Laureate for Europe

“It’s a demonstration that we are at the frontier of research and that research and science are not limited to a single country. It doesn’t have borders. It’s a huge honor to represent this country and this region where I have been living for the past 13 years. It’s my home now,” said Nunes in an interview with Arab News en Francais.

As the laureate representing the Middle East and the GCC region, Nunes describes the conditions, facilities and freedom of research at KAUST as important elements to conduct advanced research.

“It would be difficult to find another institution where I would have the same level of support,” she said.

“It’s a very good feeling to be part of a country changing towards sustainability and women’s empowerment under Vision 2030.”

Nunes specializes in integrating membrane technology to enable lower carbon emissions, with applications in high energy consuming sectors (industrial, transportation and residential).

Her research work involves developing membrane-based technology for air dehumidification, distillation, and for more sustainable separations in the chemical and petrochemical industry.




Professor Suzana Nunes (chemistry), laureate for the Africa and Arab States region. (Supplied)

The transition to a fully sustainable economy based on renewables is a multi-step process.

The Kingdom is suitable terrain for her research with its increased investment and efforts toward renewable energy transition and reducing carbon emissions.

The latter is part of the award ceremony, the host country’s decarbonization goals, as well as L’Oreal Group’s strategy.

For Nunes, inspiring and accompanying younger students is essential in improving the numbers of women in STEM. It is a collective responsibility, alongside universities and schools across the Kingdom and around the world to “inspire the young generation to give,” she said.




Professor Suzanna Nunes in Saudi Arabia, surrounded by her students of 13 different nationalities (Supplied)

“They must be exposed, they must have the opportunity to pursue studies and research in chemical, electrical or mechanical engineer, if they were interested in it.”

This year’s ceremony marked the 25th anniversary of the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science awards.

The idea that “the world needs science and science needs women” led the Fondation L’Oreal and UNESCO to commit, 25 years ago, to promoting women scientists and shedding light on their achievements.

For Alexandra Palt, chief corporate responsibility officer and executive vice president of the Fondation L’Oreal, said the Women in Science program is an “opportunity to break the cycle of invizibilization of women scientists.

“Women represented 25 percent of scientists 25 years ago. Today we are at 33 percent. It is a relevant evolution but there still is progress to be made.”

Looking across history, “a lot of women scientists who have invented or discovered anything were erased from history or their inventions, their discoveries, were attributed to men,” she added.

FASTFACTS

- 33% of researchers worldwide are women

- 15% of high-level academic positions in Europe are held by women

- Fewer than 4% of scientific Nobel Prizes have been awarded to women

Some of the topics that the Fondation L’Oreal is addressing include women’s representation in STEM fields, namely computer science, mathematics, and physics, but also their representation in leadership positions. “Only 15 to 18 percent of institutions are led by women,” Palt said.

“We will continue to give awards to women scientists … we have fields of research that are completely abandoned by young girls including mathematics, computer science and physics. I don’t want to live in a world where computer science and artificial intelligence is solely programmed by men,” Palt added.

UNESCO AND L'OREAL

The Women in Science program is one of the first public-private partnerships with UNESCO. Out of the women scientists participating in the L’Oreal impact survey:

- 93% of the women scientists said that the program boosted their confidence and leadership skills

- 95% declared having had more visibility, which was an asset in their career development

- 81% said that it opened doors for their professional careers

“When science is open, it is more effective and more relevant. Closing off science, preventing it from opening to other goals, other methods and other perspectives, impedes scientific innovation. This is the conviction that underpins UNESCO’s Recommendation on Open Science, adopted by our member states in November 2021. It is also the conviction at the heart of the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science program,” said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO director-general, during the event’s opening speech.

For Jean-Paul Agon, chairman and former CEO of L’Oreal, “the fight for inclusion overtakes the question of gender.” He added: “the Fondation L’Oreal will continue to be fully active so that they (women scientists) have the opportunity and the capacity, on equal terms, to build a better world, for all women and men.”

The event was attended by laureates’ family, friends, as well as influencers and public figures, among others. Three displaced women scientists from Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria were honored at the ceremony.

To date, the Women in Science program has provided support for 127 laureates and more than 4,100 young talents, doctoral and post-doctoral students, through research grants awarded each year in over 110 countries.

The L’Oreal Foundation has mobilized the necessary resources and is investing in women and scientific research to break the glass ceiling, which is still a present reality.


Where We Are Going Today: Pierre Herme Paris

Where We Are Going Today: Pierre Herme Paris
Updated 22 February 2024
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Where We Are Going Today: Pierre Herme Paris

Where We Are Going Today: Pierre Herme Paris

Visitors to the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh can get a taste for luxury from more than just the decor and surroundings.

At Pierre Herme Paris they can sample pastries and sweets conceived by French pastry chef Herme, known as the “Picasso of pastry.”

Among the most popular desserts are French macarons, and vanille cakes infused with exotic vanilla cream from Tahiti, Mexico, and Madagascar.

Dacquoise biscuits are adorned with crunchy hazelnuts, hazelnut flakes, thin layers of milk chocolate, milk chocolate ganache, Chantilly cream, and several ice cream flavors, while the pink rose macarons from Isfahan, Iran are filled with rose petal cream and raspberries.

All the pastries are lovingly prepared in the hotel’s kitchens and showcased in museum- style class cabinets.

One of the things that  impressed me about Pierre Hermé Paris is that it is headed by the Executive Pastry Chef Steve Thiery from France, who joined the global pastry-making operations in 2019 after honing his talents for a decade and
a half in pastry kitchens from French Polynesia to France and Morocco.

 


‘Disgusted’ British fashion icon bins honor from late queen over UK’s Gaza stance

‘Disgusted’ British fashion icon bins honor from late queen over UK’s Gaza stance
Updated 22 February 2024
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‘Disgusted’ British fashion icon bins honor from late queen over UK’s Gaza stance

‘Disgusted’ British fashion icon bins honor from late queen over UK’s Gaza stance
  • Katharine Hamnett: ‘I’m disgusted to be British for our role in genocide in Gaza’
  • She released a video saying her CBE ‘belongs in the dustbin’ along with PM, opposition leader

LONDON: British fashion designer Katharine Hamnett has renounced an honor she received from the late Queen Elizabeth II to protest against the UK government’s stance on Gaza.

Hamnett, 76, famed for pioneering the slogan T-shirt, was made a commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2011 in recognition of her influence on the fashion industry.

This week she released a short video clip showing her outside her front door, wearing a signature T-shirt with the words “Disgusted to be British” emblazoned on the front, throwing her CBE medal into a bin.

“I’m disgusted to be British for our role in genocide in Gaza,” she said. “This is my CBE. It belongs in the dustbin, with (UK Prime Minister Rishi) Sunak and (Labour leader Sir Keir) Starmer.”

Hamnett, who is noted for her political activism, released the clip ahead of a series of proposed motions in the House of Commons calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.


Review: ‘Dune: Part Two’ solidifies Denis Villeneuve as a master storyteller

Review: ‘Dune: Part Two’ solidifies Denis Villeneuve as a master storyteller
Updated 22 February 2024
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Review: ‘Dune: Part Two’ solidifies Denis Villeneuve as a master storyteller

Review: ‘Dune: Part Two’ solidifies Denis Villeneuve as a master storyteller

DUBAI: French Canadian auteur Denis Villeneuve can rest easy as “Dune: Part Two” pulls off the most elusive of filmmaking wins: improving on the original movie with a sequel. A lot of it comes down to the fact that “Dune: Part One,” released in October 2021, utilized most of its 2 hours and 48 minutes of runtime to set up 2024’s sweeping spectacle of a conclusion to Frank Herbert’s first novel in the “Dune” series.

And what a spectacle it is. Not only is “Part Two” a sensorial treat in every possible way, but Villeneuve also injects the movie with an emotional verve and gravitas, as well as playfulness, that was drastically missing in the first, in comparison.

“Dune: Part Two” picks up on the heels of the first film, locating itself deep in the desert landscape of Arrakis (shot extensively in Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter), where young Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) must earn the trust of the native Fremen tribes after his entire house was massacred by the Harkonens in a bloody coup.

While Fremen warrior Stilgar (Javier Bardem) is convinced Paul is the prophesized messiah come to save their world from the colonizing forces of Baron Harkonen (Stellan Skarsgard) and battle-hardened war-monger Rabban Harkonnen (Dave Bautista), other Arrakis natives view the young noble with suspicion.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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As the battles between the Harkonnens and the Fremen play out in gigantic and awesome displays of fire power, Paul grapples with the consequences of his rising power as Muad’Dib and his need for vengeance, goaded by the growing occult influence of his mother, Lady Jessica, a powerful member of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood.

There is also a budding romance between Paul and Chani (Zendaya), a Fremen fighter who is vocal about her distrust in prophecies, and wants her people to earn their freedom themselves, instead of relying on an outsider.

Zendaya as Fremen warrior Chani in ‘Dune: Part Two.’ (Supplied)

High on the list of Paul’s hit list is Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken) for a reason that is made clear pretty early in the film, while his daughter Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) serves as the audience’s entry point into the geopolitical nuances of “Part Two,” as she narrates the film.

Props go entirely to Villeneuve and writer Jon Spaihts for homing in on Herbert’s distaste for the Chosen One trope and dismantling the hero’s journey to reveal the greys that lie beneath what may initially seem like a very black-and-white story. Villeneuve also pulls on the religious threads of the story, ever so carefully, and the results are as mystical as they are cerebral.

Rebecca Ferguson as Reverend Mother Jessica in ‘Dune: Part Two.’ (Supplied)

Meanwhile, cinematographer Greig Fraser is well on his way to collect his next Oscar with “Part Two” — the first instalment of the film won the Best Cinematography Academy Award in 2022 — as he levels up his craft in the sequel. Also, composer Hans Zimmer delivers a superior soundtrack that will stick with audiences long after they have left the theater.

As far as performances go, main players Chalamet and Zendaya turn in expected performances, but never really push the envelope. However, the supporting cast, including Fergusson, Bardem, Bautista and Josh Brolin, are superlative and seem to have remembered to have fun with their characters. Even newcomer Austin Butler as the psychopathic Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen is an absolute treat to behold.

Austin Butler plays Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in ‘Dune: Part Two.’ (Supplied)

While “Part Two” brings about a satisfying end to the events of the first book, the movie heavily hints at a third outing, and it would be a welcome one.

So if you have recently found yourself losing faith in blockbuster movies, “Dune: Part Two” is here to turn you back into a believer.


Comedian Russell Peters to hit the stage in Riyadh

Comedian Russell Peters to hit the stage in Riyadh
Updated 22 February 2024
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Comedian Russell Peters to hit the stage in Riyadh

Comedian Russell Peters to hit the stage in Riyadh

RIYADH: Global comedy superstar Russell Peters will perform at Riyadh’s Princess Nourah Bint Abdul Rahman University on Feb. 24.

The show is being produced by Smile Entertainment and Live Nation Middle East.

“We’re really excited to host Russell back in Riyadh after a gap of over 10 years,” Peter Howarth-Lees, founder and CEO of Smile Entertainment, said.

Canadian comedian Peters will be joined on stage by US comedian Adam Hunter and DJ StartingFromScatch, who will kick off the show during Saudi Arabia’s Founding Day weekend.

Recently named one of the 50 best comics of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, Peters’ most notable tour to date was titled “The Deported World Tour.” It took place in over 40 cities over the course of 18 months and premiered as a stand-up special on Amazon Prime in 2020.

It is not Peters’ first time in the region — he performed in Abu Dhabi in 2023 and also performed in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla in February 2022, among other performances in the region.

Peters, who is of Anglo-Indian descent, was the first comedian to sell out Toronto’s Air Canada Center in 2007 and has also performed at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the Sydney Opera House and London’s O2 arena.

Peters hit the comedy scene when he was 19 and skyrocketed to global fame with CTV’s “Comedy Now,” a Canadian stand-up comedy show featuring on-stage comic routines by pro and amateur comedians.


Saudi artists create special commissions for Riyadh’s Diriyah Biennale

Saudi artists create special commissions for Riyadh’s Diriyah Biennale
'Saudi Futurism' by Ahmed Mater and Armin Linke. (Photo by Marco Cappellletti, Courtesy of the Diriyah Biennale)
Updated 22 February 2024
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Saudi artists create special commissions for Riyadh’s Diriyah Biennale

Saudi artists create special commissions for Riyadh’s Diriyah Biennale
  • The works explore themes of renewal, cultural heritage and conservation
  • The second edition of the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale runs from Feb. 20-May 24

RIYADH: The second Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, “After Rain,” features the work of 100 artists from more than 40 countries displayed in industrial warehouses in the JAX District of Riyadh. The theme of this year’s Biennale, curated by artistic director Ute Meta Bauer is all about renewal, rejuvenation and revitalization. Metaphorically, it can be applied to the rapid social and economic transformation the Kingdom is undergoing and the role art is playing in that change.

Among the dozens of artworks on show, some were newly produced by artists based in the Kingdom, including “Saudi Futurism,” an installation created by Ahmed Mater, one of the Kingdom’s most prominent artists, and Milan-born photographer and filmmaker Armin Linke. The two men travelled together across the country documenting historical, industrial and scientific sites, including the megaproject NEOM, a dairy farm, monumental buildings, the Shaheen supercomputer, Yamama Cement Factory and the colorful Diplomatic Club Heart Tent in Riyadh designed by Frei Otto. Visitors can peruse these images that merge Saudi Arabia’s past and select their own sequence of images to depict the rapid change the country is presently experiencing.

Jeddah-based Daniah Alsaleh’s “A Stone’s Palette” presents studies from her explorations of the archaeological sites of AlUla and Tayma, focusing particularly on carnelian stone beads produced in Tayma long ago, which, she explains, served as important social artifacts, used as both elements in rituals and as personal accessories.

Daniah Alsaleh. (Supplied)

“I learned they were sourced from the Indus Valley thousands of years ago,” Alsaleh tells Arab News. “They manufactured the beads in Tayma and then exported them to Mesopotamia. I went and got carnelian rock from India and created different pigments that I applied on these sketches, which are transfer photos of the excavation sites with my intervention using modern patterns and ornamentation.”

In his outdoor installation “The Whispers of Today Are Heard in the Garden of Tomorrow,” Al-Ahsa-based artist Mohammad Alfaraj has created sculptures from natural materials he found in the desert, including coiled palm leaves positioned on sticks placed in sand, which are complemented by photographs and painted murals on either wall of the wooden pavilion that encompasses his ‘garden.’

“Everything that is happening today has an echo in our future whether it is good or bad, especially the things that are not really prominent,” Alfaraj tells Arab News. “The installation consists of three parts: ‘Fossils of Time,’ made with photography and fabric — I really think that photographs, especially when they are printed, are fossils of a moment.”

Mohammed Alfaraj's 'The Whispers of Today Are Heard in the Garden of Tomorrow.' (Arab News/Rebecca Anne Proctor)

The second part is a mural called “Love is to Leave the Gates of Your Garden Ajar,” made from the charcoal of burnt palm trees. “What does it say when you use something that has been destroyed and you try and make something new from it?” he asks. “This is something that I want to emphasize: To build more than to destroy. This reflects a symbol of hope, even for the people of Palestine and for people living in any oppressed place. It is inspiring to see people use their resilience to build a new life.”

The third part consists of several new sculptures made from old palm leaves and covered in date syrup and gum Arabic topped with a protective resin that are stationed on metal plinths in the sand.

“I put them into these characters and try and let them have a continuation of their life,” Alfaraj explains. “They are monuments to a life that hasn’t been lived.”

The theme of memory is central to Saudi-based Yemeni artist Sara Abdu’s poignant biennale contribution “Now That I Have Lost You in My Dreams Where Do We Meet?”

Sara Abdu's 'Now That I Have Lost You in My Dreams Where Do We Meet' (Photo by Marco Cappellletti, Courtesy of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation)

“It is inspired by dreams I used to have,” Abdu tells Arab News. “When I think about those dreams, those intangible spaces, they offer us an opportunity to create new memories. The artwork negotiates our relationship with memory. It looks at time as this thing that determines the death of memories and all that is ephemeral.

“The materials are inspired by the Islamic funeral ritual of washing the deceased,” she continues. “I used two main ingredients: sidr powder and camphor crystals. For me, these two ingredients are the smell of death.”

The installation is constructed in a way, explains Abdu, that it looks like it is “trapping and immortalizing memories. Allowing us to exist with them in the same time and space.”

She continues: “The title of the work is very present in the space and revolves around the idea of repetition, leaving the viewer to ask how the answer to that question would leave us feeling in return.”