Monday, June 17, 2024

UNAM scientist makes history with botanical research award

A scientist at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) has become the first Latin American and only the second woman to be granted the Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award by the American Botanical Council (ABC).

Professor emeritus Rachel Mata Essayag won the award for her work in pharmacognosy, or the study of plants for their medicinal uses, joining the ranks of other important pioneers in the field, such as Joseph Betz, Otto Sticher and Douglas Kinghorn.

She has worked with a number of plants esteemed in Mexico for their purported medicinal uses, such as epazote, cancerina, myrtus, amber, alache, zopilote and copalchi, among others.

“The importance of studying [these plants] is that it creates awareness of their compositions and biological properties so that health authorities will promote their proper use,” she said.

She said that the award is thanks to the joint labor of her colleagues and students in their work to better understand plants’ medicinal properties.

Mata said that she is pleased that the council looked to Mexico when thinking of granting the award, and “that they are not just interested in research done in Europe, [but] now consider work done in Latin America.”

The ABC gives the award in honor of Norman R. Farnsworth, who made important contributions to the field of pharmacognosy in the mid-20th century.

Mata stands out in the UNAM Chemistry Department for her work creating vegetable compounds from medicinal plants from Mexico. She has developed analytical methods for the quality control of botanical ingredients.

For the last three decades, she has been at the vanguard of research in her field. Her work has led to the discovery of new compounds made from traditional medicinal plants and other agrochemical advances.

She has published over 200 scientific articles, books and book chapters, and has assessed over 100 undergraduate and postgraduate students, among them stand-out researchers of natural products.

She also won the Norman R. Farnsworth Award given by the American Society of Pharmacognosy in 2014, the National University Award for Natural Sciences Education in 2000 and the Marín de la Cruz Award in 2002, among others.

Also among her honors is a special issue of the Journal of Natural Products, official journal of the American Society of Pharmacognosy, dedicated to her in 2019. She has been a fellow of the organization since 2014.

Source: Infobae (sp)

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