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Young women scientists sweep major national award


Toronto, ON – September 27, 2004 – Young Canadian women appear to be dominating the leading-edge science of biotechnology. Martha Mullally is the latest winner and fifth woman to receive the Young Scientist Footsteps Award, a national science award sponsored by the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI).

CBI launched the $5,000 award in 2003 to honour the 50th anniversary of Watson and Crick’s discovery of the DNA double helix by recognizing outstanding research conducted by graduate students in Canadian universities. The award will be presented at a National Biotechnology Week reception in Ottawa on September 28.

Ms Mullally is a master’s of science graduate student at Ottawa’s Carleton University working on identifying the genes involved in wood development in trees. She is part of Arborea, a Genome Canada-funded project focused on producing high-quality wood in less time.

She once worked at the famous Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory directed by Nobel laureate James Watson on Long Island, NY. In winning an award in his honour, she has come full circle.

“This week, the award is more meaningful than ever with National Biotechnology Week as the backdrop,” says Gijs van Rooijen, chief scientific officer, Genome Prairie. “Significantly, all five winners have been women and they are outstanding examples of scientific expertise that is brought to bear on plant genomics.”

The Young Scientist Footsteps Award highlights how biotechnology has many applications across agriculture, forestry and pharmaceuticals, bringing environmental and health benefits to consumers. Previous winners of the Young Scientist Footsteps Award are:

– Heather Topley, Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Truro, NS
– Janice Cuthbert, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB
– Meriem Benchabane, Laval University, Quebec City, QC
– Kiersten Stead, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB