Zohra ben Lakhdar Akrout (born in 1943) is a Tunisian physicist. Born and raised in a modest family from the Kerkennah islands, she chose to go to high school to study science, at a time when most women stopped their studies after middle school to focus on marriage. In 1963, Ms. Ben Lakhdar was one of the first Tunisian women to attend the Faculty of Science in Tunis. After earning a PhD in physics science at the prestigious university of Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris), and in spite of appealing job offers, she returned to Tunisia, where she became an active physicist devoted to widening the pathway to science in her country, especially for African women. In 2005 she wrote Following the Light: Opening Doors to Science in Tunisia, an essay that chronicles how she overcame personal, political, social, and cultural obstacles to become in 1978 professor of physics at the University of Tunis. Ms. Zohra Ben Lakhdar liked to develop research in Tunisia. She was the first woman among 5 men to develop & built the first research laboratories in Tunisia.
As a physics professor at the Tunis Faculty of Science, she was awarded the l’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science for “experiments and models in infrared spectroscopy and its applications to pollution, detection and medicine”. Her areas of expertise include the influence of pollutants on the quality of air, water, and plants..
In 2017 Ms. Ben Lakhdar was appointed Chevalier dans l’Ordre de la Légion d’honneur, France’s highest award, for her commitment to develop science education in Tunisia, for boys and girls alike.