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5 Arab Female Scientists to Know


Dr Habiba Alsafar

In the last few decades, women in the Arab world have had the opportunity to pioneer ahead in the science field. These five women prove they have done just that.

Manahel Thabet

Thabet, born in Yemen, was ranked as one of the 30 Smartest people alive by SuperScholar, Genius of the Year 2014 by the World Genius Directory representing ASIA and Brain of the Year Award Winner 2015-2016. She is youngest and first Arab female to obtain a PhD in Financial Engineering and by writing research papers on quantum mathematics she aims to revolutionise our understanding of maths and physics.

Dr Hayat Sindi

Sindi is an absolute female powerhouse! She was the first Saudi Muslim woman in the Middle East to obtain a PhD in biotechnology and today is a medical scientist. She was also one of the first female members of the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia and is also the co-founder of Diagnostics For All, an NGO that provides health care for people living in rural and impoverished areas. Sindi is a true role-model for women, especially Arab women, as she has also been appointed as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador.

Samia Al-Amoudi

Dr Al-Amoudi is a true pillar of female strength. Not only is the Saudi national a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, she is also the head of the Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi Centre of Excellence in breast cancer. She was one of the first doctors to graduate from the medical college at King Abdulaziz University in 1981 and one of the reasons she is so passionate about raising awareness about breast cancer is because she herself was diagnosed with the disease in April 2006 (she actually diagnosed herself). She underwent chemotherapy and was the first Saudi woman to publically speak out about her experience, by writing a number of articles every week in the Al Madinah newspaper, as well as appearing on a daily television show. She was number 5 on the Power 100 list of the world’s most influential Arabs in 2010 and in 2012, she successfully finished her cancer treatment.

Dr Habiba Alsafar

An Emirati national, Dr Alsafar is a research scholar, predominantly focusing on constructing the genomic structures of individuals of Arab descent to identify genomic segments that carry genes that are predisposed to disease. She looks at diseases which are on the rise in the Emirati community in the UAE, such as Type 2 diabetes. Her research is the first of its kind conducted on the UAE Bedouin population, as well as in the Middle East.

Maha Al-Asmakkh

Al-Asmakkh is an assistant professor in the biomedical science department at Qatar University. She studied at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and received her doctorate degree last year. She researches how the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut of a mother can affect the development of a foetus, specifically the blood-brain barrier, which is a filter that keeps the blood in the brain free from harmful substances. She won the 2016 L’Oreal-UNESCO “For Women in Science” Middle East Fellowship Award and this award granted the biologist around $25,000 to put towards her next research project – seeing if healthy gut bacteria can prevent diabetes.

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