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15 Remarkable Arab Female Scientists To Know

Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science!

On the occasion of International Day of Women and Girls in Science falling on February 11, we at are celebrating Arab women in science from all across the Arab world. This year's theme announced by the United Nations focuses on female scientists making advances against the coronavirus disease, you can read more about it here. The pandemic has unfortunately contributed to widening the gender gap in science and revealed gender disparities in the field. We hope to see more and more Arab female scientist bring their best in 2021. From conquering Mars from the UAE to developing KSA's first coronavirus vaccine, click though to meet some of the region's brightest scientific minds:

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1. Noor Shaker

Noor Shaker is a co-founder of the company Generative Tensorial Networks (GTN), which merges artificial intelligence to quantum computers in order to quicken the creation of new modern medicines. Shaker left Syria in 2008 and headed to Europe to study AI, and after she completed her master's degree, went on to spend 8 years as a researcher focusing on the application of tech within computer games in Copenhagen, Denmark. Since co-founding GTN, Noor has been featured in the BBC’s “100 Women” list as well as the “Innovators Under 35 Europe” list – and it seems it's just the beginning for her.

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2. Rana El-Kaliouby

Rana El-Kaliouby is an Egyptian computer scientist who founded an MIT startup called Affectiva, which aids computers in facial recognition and helping them to be more accurate in the way they read expressions. El-Kaliouby’s pioneering career in AI and her project Affectiva managed to raise the tech entrepreneur $26million in funding to help improve it’s object and emotion detection features for monitoring passengers in vehicles. Affectiva’s key goal is to use the advanced innovative technology in cameras that are used for car safety systems that can help determine whether a driver is drowsy, sad, happy or angry.

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3. Fatemah Alharbi

Jeddah-born and raised, Alharbi pursued a PhD in Computer Science at the University of California and is now an assistant professor at the College of Computer Science and Engineering at Taibah University, Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. Prior to this, she graduated with a master's degree in Computer Science from California State University and a bachelor's degree in the same specialization from King Abdulaziz University. In recent years, the Saudi female scientist made global headlines for discovering a flaw in the security systems of Apple, Microsoft, and Linux.

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4. Sarah Al Amiri

Young Emirati engineer, Sarah al-Amiri, caught the world's attention when she lead the country's efforts into space with the Hope Probe mission to Mars.

"We're a new country that is late to the competition in the global perspective," al-Amiri told the British scientific journal Nature earlier this month. "It's natural for people to think this was crazy," she added, referring to the UAE's Mars mission, which launched July 20.

Al-Amiri kicked off her career as a computer engineer and then moved to the field of space technology at the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology, where she worked on the UAE's first satellites.

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5. Dr. Iman Al Mansour

Assistant professor at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University and Ph.D. holder in Biomedical Engineering & Biotechnology-University of Massachusetts, Dr. Iman Al Mansour developed Saudi Arabia's first vaccine against coronavirus. The research’s findings have been published in the scientific Pharmaceutical Journal and have achieved high impact. The vaccine, which adopts DNA technology and requires no freezing, will now enter the trial phase.

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6. Amira Shaheen

Hailing from Jabal Al-Mukaber in occupied Jerusalem, Dr. Shaheen holds a PhD in Epidemiology and Population Health, which she obtained in 2009 from the London School of Health and Medicine. Since 2011, she has worked as a lecturer at An-Najah National University .Dr. Shaheen’s award-winning research project focuses on gender-based violence, strengthening the response of the healthcare system to such violence and relying on the Palestinian model. In 2019, Dr. Shaheen was awarded with the Elsevier Award f or Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World.

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7. Laura Joy Boulos

Lebanese scientist Dr. Laura-Joy Boulos is PhD holder in Neuroscience from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Standing out as an expert in psychology, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence, Dr. Boulos is an Assistant Professor at Saint-Joseph University in Beirut. She was amongst the five scientists awarded at the 22nd International For Women in Science Award with Unesco and L'Oreal in 2020. In September 2019, Dr. Boulos was also among the “six most brilliant women scientists” awarded at the 2019 L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Levant Fellowship. Dr. Boulos is famous for her project about creating tools from neuroscience and artificial intelligence to assist humans in making decisions under uncertainty.

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8. Abla Mehio Sibai

Dr. Abla Mehio Sibai is an AUB Professor of Epidemiology at the Faculty of Health Sciences. Dr. Sibai is renowned for her pioneering research and advocacy to improve healthy aging in low- and middle-income countries and their impact on health and social policy programs. She also nabbed the first honoree spot in the 22nd International For Women in Science Award in 2020.

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9. Abeer AlJabr

Abeer AlJabr joined Saudi Aramco in July 2017 to work as an engineer in the company’s Fire Protection Department (FrPD). Becoming Pro Board certified in Firefighter I and II with a NFPA Certification, the Saudi female trailblazer underwent rigorous physical training and passed medical and skill tests to complete the Hazmat Awareness and Hazmat Operations.

“I feel very proud to be a part of the Kingdom’s historic progress and to receive NFPA firefighting certification. Once a development like this is set in motion, there will be growth in the number of women joining previously male dominated professions. Diversity is important to bring the full complement of differing skill sets, talents and perspectives to the table,” she says.

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10. 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.

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11. 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 where she received her PhD. 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 also won the 2016 L’Oreal-UNESCO “For Women in Science” Middle East Fellowship Award.

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12. Dr. Fatmah Baothman

Dr. Fatmah Baothman is the first woman in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East to hold a PhD in Modern Artificial Intelligence (AI), a milestone for the entire region. The specialist in AI has been awarded the first-ever Women AI Award, which was announced at the VB AI Summit Transform 2019 in San Francisco, United States.
Jeddah born and based; she is currently an Assistance Professor of Artificial Intelligent (AI) at King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah. Before coming back home to hold such a prestigious title, Dr. Baothman began her AI journey as a student at the University of Arizona studying the English language. It was there she was introduced to computer systems that help and assist non-native English speakers. She went on to earn a PhD from the School of Computing and Engineering at the University of Huddesfield in the United Kingdom, with her dissertation entitled “Phonology-Based Automatic Speech Recognition for Arabic.”

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13. Dr. Elaf Ahmed

Dr. Ahmed joined Saudi Aramco in 2018 as a lab scientist on the Produced Water Treatment Team (PWT), which is a part of the Oil and Gas Treatment Division at Aramco’s R&D’s center.

She is one of the project leaders on a team of around 10 scientists who work on research projects for different produced water treatment technologies. “’Produced water’ is a term used in the oil industry to describe water that is the byproduct of the production of oil and natural gas,” she explains. “Oil and gas reservoirs often have water, as well as hydrocarbons. It’s very important to find suitable technologies to treat this water for potential applications.”

Dr. Ahmed pursued her bachelor’s degree Microbiology from King Abdulaziz University and her Master’s degree and PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering from King Abdullah University of Science a.nd Technology (KAUST).

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14. Esra M. Alhabshi

Since graduating in 2016 with Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering, Nanotechnology and Microsystems, Esra M. Alhabshi has worked at Saudi Aramco’s satellite R&D Center, as a member of the Sustainable Energy team, in collaboration with KAUST. She conducts experiment after experiment, working to improve the efficiency of solar cells and researching the use of non-metallics. Her work focuses on unlocking the potentials of non-corrosive materials in the automotive, construction, renewable energy and packaging industries.

Her days consist of ever-shifting variables, some imposed and some not, to see which conditions, materials and parameters yield the best results. “It can get tedious sometimes, doing the same thing over and over, “ she says. “But when you see the difference in your results, even from the smallest shifts, you can see the possibilities of what can be done on a larger scale. We look to align ourselves with the overall goals of Saudi Aramco and our work includes all areas of innovation.

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15. Dr. Haleema Alamri

Dr. Haleema Alamri is a senior lab scientist in the Materials Design Lab at Saudi Aramco’s R&D Center. The mother of two, who earned a PhD in chemistry from KAUST, is an MIT research affiliate and the chair to the female Saudi social innovation group.

She and her Aramco team are committed to formulating plastics that degrade organically.

Dr. Haleema is working to develop the next generation of degradable plastics, so that when these materials are used in future applications, they will not become planet-impacting litter.

“Because we all know that plastics help make our lives better, healthier and safer every day, I am working on finding sustainable solutions for the problems associated with plastic materials. My work is targeted at generating solutions for the waste that is damaging the planet.” she said.

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