Discover prof Maria Teresa Ruiz on France 24

Discover prof Maria Teresa Ruiz on France 24

Today, only 28%* of researchers are women and only 3% of Scientific Nobel Prizes are awarded to them. This is why, for the past 19 years, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation and UNESCO have been committed to women in science, to increase the number of women working in scientific research.

The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science awards celebrates and highlights researchers from each of the five continents. Each year, these five eminent and experienced scientists, whose work has been recognized at the highest international level, are honored for their world-changing discoveries in an annual award ceremony in Paris. The program also supports more than 250 young women scientists who are the “scientists of tomorrow” by accompanying them at a key moment in their careers, during their PhD thesis or post-doctoral studies. Since 2001, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation and UNESCO have supported more than 2700 young women from 115 countries.

Because promoting women in science requires raising public awareness, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation and UNESCO have worked together with international TV channel France 24 on an exclusive series of documentaries called “Women in science”. These eight 12-minute episodes will introduce the L’Oréal-UNESCO Award Laureates and show how they are changing the world. New episodes will broadcasted each Sunday on France 24 on the French, English and Arabic channels.

The first episode will showcase Professor Maria Teresa Ruiz, 2017 Laureate of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme. She was selected for her outstanding contributions to the study of a variety of faint celestial objects hidden in the darkness of the universe.

Our solar system has 8 planets, but there are nearly 2000 exoplanets (so called because they are outside our solar system). These exoplanets help provide answers to scientists working on a wide range of issues, including whether life exists on other planets. However, they are difficult to study because, since they orbit very close to their star, they are generally masked by the star’s light. In 1997, Professor Maria Teresa Ruiz discovered an unusual celestial body, previously theorized but never observed: the first free-floating brown dwarf.

Bigger than giant planets but fainter than stars, brown dwarfs are thought of as being failed stars or expanded planets. They are quite similar to exoplanets, and easier to observe. By studying brown dwarfs, astrophysicists can thus better understand the characteristics of exoplanets, how they evolve over time and the conditions necessary for the development of life on planets other than Earth. In other words, brown dwarfs are excellent exoplanet laboratories.

Head of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Chile in Santiago, Prof. Ruiz named her discovery Kelu 1. Kelu means “red” in the language of the Chilean Mapuche Indians and Kelu-1 is said to be free-floating because it wanders through space without being attached to any stellar system.