Published: Oct. 22, 2012


Deborah Jin, an adjoint professor of physics at the University of Colorado Boulder and a fellow of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has been awarded the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science award.

Jin also is a fellow of JILA, a joint institute of CU-Boulder and NIST located on the CU campus. She teaches both undergraduate and graduate students and was one of five recipients who each will receive $100,000 at an awards ceremony in Paris next March. She was the only recipient in North America.

Jin was cited by the awards jury “for having been the first to cool down molecules so much that she can observe chemical reactions in slow motion, which may help further understanding of molecular processes which are important for medicine or new energy sources.” The long-sought milestone was achieved at JILA in 2008.

The 15th Women in Science laureates were honored for demonstrating exceptionally original approaches to fundamental research in the physical sciences. The awards jury was chaired by Ahmed Zewail, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in chemistry and a professor of chemistry and physics at the California Institute of Technology.

The other 2013 laureates are:

• Professor Francisca Nneka Okeke, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (Nigeria)
for her significant contributions to the understanding of daily variations of the ion currents in the upper atmosphere which may further our understanding of climate change.

• Professor Pratibha Gai, University of York (United Kingdom)
for ingeniously modifying her electron microscope so that she was able to observe chemical reactions occurring at surface atoms of catalysts which will help scientists in their development of new medicines or new energy sources.

• Professor Reiko Kuroda, Tokyo University of Science (Japan) 
for discovering the functional importance of the difference between left-handed and right-handed molecules which has wide applications including research on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

• Professor Marcia Barbosa, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre (Brazil)
For discovering one of the peculiarities of water which may lead to better understanding of how earthquakes occur and how proteins fold which is important for the treatment of diseases.

“These five outstanding women scientists have given the world a better understanding of how nature works,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Their pioneering research and discoveries have changed the way we think in various areas of the physical sciences and opened new frontiers in science and technology. Such key developments have the potential to transform our society.  Their work, their dedication, serves as an inspiration to us all.”

Jin has been an adjoint professor of physics at CU-Boulder since 1997. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from Princeton University and a doctorate from the University of Chicago.

Jin was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005 and was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007.

She is the winner of numerous other awards, including the William Proctor Prize for Scientific Achievement in 2009, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics in 2008, the I.I Rabi Prize of the American Physical Society in 2005, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship also known as the “genius grant” in 2003 and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2000.

Established in 1998, the L’Oréal-UNESCO partnership is a long-term commitment to recognizing women in science and supporting scientific vocations. For Women in Science has grown into a global program that includes international, national and regional fellowships and an international network of more than 1,300 women in 106 countries.

For more information on the Women in Science Awards visit

Peter Caughey, CU media relations, 303-492-4007

Deborah Jin