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Hayat Sindi: Trailblazing Into The Sciences

Being the first woman in the Gulf to hold a PhD in Biotechnology and securing the title of one of the world’s leading biotechnologists, Dr. Hayat Sulaiman Sindi, is a scientist and social innovator hailing from the Saudi city of Makkah.

Leaving the Kindgom as a student to pursue her dream of becoming a scientist, Sindi’s dream pushed her to work hard to be accepted into some of the world’s best colleges including Kings College London, Cambridge University, Oxford, MIT and Harvard.

She has been very passionate about connecting science to social needs and in engaging the hearts and minds of young people. Sindi believes it is her priority to use her passion to connect young people to greater possibilities through innovation.

Her innovation includes a diagnostic tool used for the early detection of breast cancer and the Magnetic Acoustic Resonance Sensor (MARS).

Sindi was among the first women to be appointed as a member of Saudi Arabia’s Shoura council (the Kingdom’s legislature) when the breakthrough of females to serve in the council was announced in 2011.

Although unusual for a scientist, she wanted to be part of the Shoura council only because she will have a voice, to guide the future of science for the next generation. “For me it is worth it, because it is difficult to find scientists to translate the importance of science to decision-making where the real change begins,” she said in an interview.

Sindi is also a strong supporter of empowering women scientists. “We need to take action to increase women’s role in science by making careers more attractive and resonate. A key is to emphasize the human benefits to our graduate students in science, to sell people stories - not wondrous dry technologies. We also need to add mechanisms to support more women leaders and to point the direction of science. Not only will this increase the GDP, it is also a win for society and for women’s potential.”

Founding the i2 Institute, an institution that builds on the imagination and ingenuity of the youth in the Middle East, Sindi’s mission was to create an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and social innovation for scientists, technologists and engineers in the Middle East and beyond.

Some of Sindi’s recognitions include winning the ‘Makkah Al-Mukaramah’ Prize for Scientific Innovation in 2010 awarded by HRH Prince Khalid Al-Faisal. She was also named a 2011 Emerging Explorer by the National Geographic Society. In 2012, she was named one of Newsweek's "150 Women Who Shake the World." She became UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 2012.

Sindi was also a visiting scholar at Harvard University for five years, the first PopTech fellow to be awarded a Science Fellowship for two consecutive years and the only person to have been awarded the Harvard Business School’s Business Plan Contest and the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition in the same year.

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