Ecuador honors first Israeli woman to win the Nobel Prize


RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Ecuador’s National Congress honored an Israeli Nobel laureate.

Ada Yonath, who won the 2009 prize for chemistry, received a medal of scientific merit from the National Assembly’s president, Elizabeth Cabezas, at a ceremony Thursday in Quito, newspaper El Telegrafo reported.

“The National Assembly of Ecuador highlights the role of an Israeli expert who participates in the specialized international meeting promoting cooperation and support links to disseminate their vital research, and strengthen inter-exchange opportunities between Israel and Ecuador,” a statement said about the event.

Yonath, the first Israeli woman to win the Nobel Prize among 10 Israeli laureates, was recognized for her studies on the structure and function of the ribosome. She was the first woman in 45 years to win the Nobel for chemistry.

Several officials and scholars attended the event, including Israel’s ambassador, Edwin Yabo, and consul, Amir Sagron.

At the ceremony, Yonath recalled the work developed since she was a young scientist and what it meant for her to understand that the genetic code is interconnected in every living being. She said it took her 20 years to discover how antibiotics worked in humans, a fundamental issue for medicine.

The Jerusalem native attended the first International Congress of Chemistry held in the South American country, hosted by the Higher Polytechnic School of Chimborazo in the city of Riobamba.

Yonath, 78, studied chemistry at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and earned her doctorate from the Weizmann Institute of Science, to which she has maintained her ties as a researcher. Alongside her work in Israel, Yonath also has worked for several European and U.S. universities.

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