University of Toronto professor Janet Rossant has been selected as the North American Laureate for the 2018 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science awards along with four other women from around the world.
Rossant, a “world leader in developmental biology” is originally from England, where she studied at both Oxford and Cambridge before departing for Canada in 1977. She is best known for her outstanding work on how tissues and organs form in developing mammalian embryos, particularly mice.
One of her major contributions in this area relates to a process known as “lineage determination” in developing embryos, which determines why genetically identical cells take on distinct cell fates during development. The impact of her research has been lauded as vital in the fight against birth defects and diseases caused by abnormal development.
Her research also led to the discovery of a new type of placental stem cell – the trophoblast stem cell – which is essential for nutrient and waste exchange between mother and fetus.
Rossant is a Senior Scientist in the Developmental and Stem Cell Biology Program at SickKids Hospital, Toronto, and an active member of the developmental biology community. She worked as a Senior Editor of the journal, eLife, and organized several international meetings such as the 1997 International Developmental Biology Congress.
Inspiring the next generation of women scientists
One of the major goals of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science awards is to inspire a new generation of girls and women to take up the mantle of science and other STEM areas by providing a platform for role models and their remarkable feats. As it stands, less than 3% of Nobel Prizes for Science have been given to women, indicative of the lack of female representation in the field.
“I am delighted to accept the award on behalf of all women in science and engineering who are making a difference in so many ways to the future of Canada and the world,” says Rossant. “I hope to use the prestige of the award to encourage young girls and women to enter and continue in careers in STEM. Their contributions will be needed to make the world a better place.”