Irina Dudanova receives For Women in Science award

UNESCO-L'Oréal prize helps excellent female scientists to continue their career while having children

April 18, 2016

The number of women in executive positions is slowly rising but still at a rather low level. This is also true for research institutions. However, starting a family still too often means the end of a promising career for female scientists. In order to better combine work and family life, three UNESCO-L'Oréal awards are given to excellent German female scientists each year. This year, Dr. Irina Dudanova receives the prestigious award. The mother of a nine-month-old daughter is a project leader at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology. The focus of her research are toxic protein aggregates found in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer, Parkinson or Huntington. The award ceremony took place on April 18 in Berlin.

It is not easy to have a family while pursuing a career. This is especially true for women in the scientific environment, where gaps in the publication list may have a negative impact on later career opportunities. The German UNESCO commission, L'Oréal Germany and the Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard-Foundation aim to improve this situation. Every year, they award three FOR WOMEN IN SCIENCE prizes worth 20,000 Euro each. The prize contains a monthly support for household and childcare, an individual career promotion program and a financial support of the awardee's host institution for family-friendly projects. The aim is to help especially talented female scientists with children to stay at the top of research in Germany.

Irina Dudanova receives the award in 2016. The 35-year-old neurobiologist leads the project group "Molecular Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration" at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology. With her team, Irina Dudanova investigates so-called amyloid-like protein aggregates found in the brains of patients with different neurodegenerative diseases. The team investigates the impact of these protein aggregates on cellular processes and their role in the nerve cells' degeneration. Together with Rüdiger Klein, the head of the department where Irina Dudanova works, and three directors at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, the scientists aim to unravel the role of protein aggregation in neurodegeneration. The interdisciplinary research project "ToPAG" (Toxic Protein AGgregation in neurodegeneration) is funded by the European Union with 13.9 million Euro.

Irina Dudanova is the second scientist at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology to receive this prestigious award. In 2008, Corette Wierenga from the department of Tobias Bonhoeffer was awarded the For Women in Science prize.

Irina Dudanova studied medicine at Petrozavodsk State University (Russia). She continued her studies in 2002 at Georg August University in Göttingen, where she received her PhD in 2007. As a postdoc, she came to work with Rüdiger Klein in the department Molecules – Signaling – Development at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology. Since 2013, Irina Dudanova heads her own project group in the department.

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