For her research on the use of carbon dioxide, Ana Sofía Varela Gasque, of the Institute of Chemistry (IQ) of the UNAM, was named one of the 15 most promising young scientists in the world by the United Nations Organization for the Education, Science and Culture (Unesco) and L’Oréal Foundation.

The university will receive this recognition (International Rising Talents) on Thursday at the Unesco headquarters in Paris, as part of the award ceremony for the international awards.

‘Oréal-Unesco for women in science, which drives these two bodies to improve the representation of them in scientific careers. In 2017, Varela Gasque won the L’Oréal Unesco-Conacyt-Conalmex-AMC scholarship for her work in the development of new materials to accelerate the chemical reactions that allow the transformation of carbon dioxide (CO2) into non-polluting materials.

Reuse CO2 in a sustainable manner.

Itaria commented that with its line of research it tries to make a change, to find a way to reuse CO2 in a sustainable way. “Using low cost materials is attractive. My postdoctoral work was about the first reports with non-metallic catalysts, and I think that was quite novel. “He is part of the Department of Physical Chemistry of the IQ, where he began his line of research in electrocatalysis: the use of electrical energy to generate reactions chemicals that can modify the properties of carbon dioxide and convert it into some other carbon-based compound, such as sustainable fuels and compounds that can be used in the chemical industry. “I completed a master’s degree in fuels and energies for the future in Madrid, Spain.

From there I started working in the area of ​​electrocatalysis, which basically tries to relate electrical energy to chemical reactions. “What I do is basic science. Understand a chemical process that in the future will contribute to convert CO2 emissions and reduce the levels we have in the atmosphere. We work with hydrogen batteries, that is, we feed with hydrogen and shine an electric current, we look for materials to make this process as efficient as possible, “he explained.

Another process is to use electrical energy to carry out chemical reactions. “What I have always studied is the reduction of CO2; this reaction intends to use electric energy as a source of energy to transform it into carbon-based compounds that serve as precursors in the chemical industry, or even as fuels. “The objective, he said, is to find low-cost materials that facilitate this process. “They are called catalysts; they are usually metals (copper, gold or silver) and are used as an alternative to carbon, which is much more abundant. “” CO2 is seen as a greenhouse gas and causes climate change, so the idea is to migrate to renewable energies and stop using fossil fuels.

However, the reality is that this process will be delayed and nothing simple, so this contribution represents an alternative of what we can do with carbon dioxide. “The academic highlighted that the UNAM” is my home, where I was trained; afterwards I continued my studies abroad, but my dream was always to return. Here I got a job as a researcher and I have been able to contribute to the formation of students “.

Finally, she pointed out that she has many things to do, one of which is to consolidate her laboratory. “This award helps me to bring recognition to the University and to continue my research together with young Mexicans.”

International Rising Talents

During 21 editions, the L’Oréal-Unesco international awards for women in science have supported and elevated the profile of 107 prize-winners and more than three thousand talented young scientists, both doctoral and postdoctoral candidates, to whom they have awarded research scholarships, assigned annually.

With the International Rising Talents program, both organizations promote postdoctoral researchers who recently received a local grant L’Oréal-Unesco , offering them an additional subsidy and the possibility of international exposure. Among the nearly 280 national and regional scholarship recipients supported each year, the For Women in Science program selected the 15 most promising researchers.

In addition, a special training program will be organized to provide them with additional tools These skills are used as public speaking skills to train them in a long-term science career and allow them to communicate their results to non-specialized audiences.