Dr. Marycelin Baba receives the L'Oréal-UNESCO Medal of Honor for Women Scientists from Firmin Edouard Matoko, Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relations of UNESCO.

SRF Alumna Dr. Marycelin Baba Awarded L’Oréal-UNESCO Medal of Honor for Women Scientists

The International Awards Recognized Three Displaced Researchers for Displaying “Commendable Courage, Resilience, and Commitment to Science.”

PARIS, June 19, 2023 – Medical virologist and IIE Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) alumna Dr. Marycelin Baba received a medal of honor at L’Oréal-UNESCO’s For Women in Science International Awards on June 19, 2023. Dr. Baba’s research has contributed to “almost eliminating polio” in her home country of Nigeria.

In 2012, Dr. Baba was forced to leave her home country of Nigeria due to terrorism. James Robin King, IIE-SRF’s senior director, reflected on working directly with Dr. Baba when he joined IIE a decade ago: “As a prominent scientist, Marycelin’s life was in danger.”

Fortunately, Dr. Baba was awarded two IIE-SRF fellowships, which enabled her to safely continue her work in South Africa and Kenya. King and the IIE-SRF team worked with the University of Cape Town and the International Centre of Insect Physiology & Ecology to arrange her placements in 2012 and 2013. While there, Dr. Baba advanced her research on enteroviruses and arboviruses.

Dr. Baba was able to return to Nigeria in 2017, where she led the World Health Organization-accredited polio laboratory at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital and contributed to the near-eradication of the disease in Nigeria. “We are so proud of Marycelin and also of IIE’s impact on her life and career and, by extension, on millions of Nigerians,” said King.

“While my base of Maiduguri, Nigeria was flooded with blood in 2012-2014 due to operations of the Boko Haram insurgency, I was busy enhancing my career because the IIE-SRF fellowship made it possible. Within the period of the fellowship, I published four papers in peer-reviewed international journals. The skills and knowledge acquired during my fellowship are being used today to attract grants, collaborate with other scientists in the world, train others, and mentor younger scientists. Without the assistance of IIE-SRF, my professional practice would have been stalled at the heat of ‘Boko Haram syndrome’ or who knows whether I would have lost my life just like my colleagues who lost theirs through either targeted killing or stray bullets.”

Dr. Marycelin Baba

Sponsored by Fondation L’Oréal and UNESCO, the awards program has worked for the past twenty-five years to empower more female scientists to overcome barriers to progression and participate in solving the great challenges of our time. The 2023 awards highlighted the difficulties faced by women forced to flee their countries to survive.

Read more about Dr. Marycelin Baba and the medal of honor.

IIE-SRF is the only global program that arranges, funds, and supports fellowships for threatened and displaced scholars at partnering higher education institutions worldwide, including inside their home regions.

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