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UC3M researcher awarded the L'Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science 2024 Prize


Vanesa Guerrero, a scientist from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), has been awarded a prize by the L'Oréal-UNESCO “For Women in Science” programme, which recognises the five best projects led by Spanish female researchers under the age of 40, with a prize of 15,000 euros each.

Vanesa Guerrero, , Premio Internacional L’Oréal–UNESCO “La Mujer y la Ciencia” de 2024

Vanesa Guerrero, a lecturer in UC3M's Statistics Department, has been awarded a prize for her research project “Fairness in predictive models with functional data”, which aims to develop mathematical models to help with data-based decision-making by combining mathematical, statistical and machine learning optimisation tools. The researcher and her team seek to contribute to the development of fairer and more interpretable algorithms, and to make society trust artificial intelligence more.

When asked about her research, Vanesa Guerrero explains that she would like the models and tools she develops to help with more informed and interpretable decision-making to be used by professionals in different fields and for them to be beneficial for their work. In this way, people could better understand why a mathematical model or algorithm decides, for example, whether or not to give someone a loan or what is the suitable dose of a certain medication depending on the patient's characteristics. 

“This project focuses on functional data, that is, data where for each observation there are one or more curves reflecting the evolution of certain characteristics over time [...] It is a methodological project that can have applications in fields as diverse as medicine, meteorology, demography and economics, among others”, says the researcher. In fact, “machine learning and artificial intelligence play a crucial role in the development of algorithms for data-based decision-making”, she concludes.

These L'Oréal and UNESCO prizes, which are focusing on the fields of physical-mathematical sciences, technology and engineering this year, aim to support this research work and bring women's leadership to the forefront of Spain's scientific field. The research projects have been chosen by a jury made up of scientific experts in the areas covered in this edition: María A. Blasco, director of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO, in its Spanish acronym); Pilar López Sancho, research lecturer in the Materials Theory and Simulation Department at the CSIC’s Madrid Institute of Materials Science; Nuria Oliver, co-founder and director of the ELLIS Alicante Foundation; and Mateo Valero, director of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (National Supercomputing Centre). 

The L'Oréal-UNESCO ‘For Women in Science’ programme has launched the careers of more than 4,100 female scientists under the age of 40 worldwide since it was created in 1998. In Spain, the programme has acknowledged the careers of 87 female scientists in total, to whom it has awarded grants worth over 1.3 million euros.

Vanesa Guerrero (Guadalcanal, Seville; 1989) has a Bachelor's degree (2012) and a PhD (2017) in Mathematics from the University of Seville. She later became a visiting lecturer in the Department of Statistics at UC3M, where she currently works, since July 2022, with a Juan de la Cierva contract. She has also carried out research stays at the Copenhagen Business School (Denmark) and the École Polytechnique (France). Among her scientific achievements, she has been awarded the Ramiro Melendreras Prize from the Society of Statistics and Operations Research and the Ramiro Melendreras Foundation, the Vicent Caselles Prize from the Royal Spanish Mathematical Society and the BBVA Foundation, and the Extraordinary Doctorate Prize in the branch of Mathematics from the University of Seville. This new award for Vanesa “contributes to encouraging leadership and making my research visible, therefore helping to consolidate my scientific career. In addition, this award provides added motivation to continue in the long-distance race that research can sometimes be”.