Today marks a very special occasion, one that places a celebratory and prideful lens on a unique band of women. Every year, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science directs a lens at every woman who persisted and shattered stereotypes on what is possible in the world of science. Ambitious and driven, these women brought about significant changes and achieved major breakthroughs in every field imaginable including biotech, security and space. To commemorate the day, we’ve compiled a collection of Arab female scientists who deserve to be recognized and celebrated.
Sarah Al Amiri
Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri is the young Emirati engineer who caught the world’s attention when she was the one who led the Hope Probe mission to Mars as part of her role as the mission’s deputy project manager. Her career journey began when she started off as a computer engineer and then moved onto the field of space tech at the Emirates institute for Advanced Science and Technology where she worked on the UAE’s very first satellites dubbed DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2.
Today, beyond leading the UAE space mission, the young engineer holds many prominent titles under her belt including being the chair of the UAE Space Agency as well as the UAE’s Minister of State for Advanced Sciences.
Dr. Iman Al Mansour
Bringing a semblance of hope during a time when COVID was a dismal shadow cast over the globe was Saudi researcher and assistant professor Dr. Iman Al Mansour. She was a true pioneer as she was able to develop Saudi Arabia’s first vaccine against the coronavirus. To make the vaccine, she employed DNA technology and did not include a freezing process, her findings were published in the scientific Pharmaceutical Journal and proved to achieve high impact.
Today, the world recognizes Al Mansour’s accomplishment as a major milestone for the entire Kingdom, bridging the gap of what is possible in the field. As a Ph.D. holder in Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology, the researcher has a bright future ahead of her and maybe even more breakthroughs ahead.
A passionate and avid fighter, Leela Hazzah is Egypt’s very own biologist who made it her mission to fight against the killing, decline and death of lions in Kenya. Once she completed her undergraduate degree in biology as well as her graduate studies in conservation biology and sustainable development, she placed her focus on the local residents of Kenya known as the Maasai people and how they play a major role in the decline of the lions.
Through her work with the Maasai people she was able to come up with an innovative solution to end the killing of lions. She called it “Lion Guardians” and the main idea behind it is that locals would take on the role of being guardians to the lions which involves responsibilities like monitoring their movement, recovering lost livestock and preventing the hunting of the lions. Through her efforts, she was able to triple the lion’s population in Kenya.
With a passion for computer science and cybersecurity, Saudi scientist Fatemah Alharbi shook the world when she discovered a cyberattack targeting the security systems of Apple, Microsoft and Linux. Way back before her major breakthrough, she began her career in the world of programming, learning its ins and outs through her undegraduate studies and following that by pursuing a PhD degree in computer science at the University of California, Riverside.
Beyond immersing herself in the world of computer science, she stressed wanting to expand and widen the reach of the field by teaching it to young scientific enthusiasts as she believes that teaching is an integral aspect of truly honing the field.
Abla Mehio Sibai
Years ago, after witnessing the harsh impact of the Lebanese civil war that ran from 1975 till 1990 on her friends, family but most importantly the vulnerable older population this spearheaded her journey and passion towards creating a better world for the elderly community. Shaping her passion through education, she earned a masters degree followed by a postgraduate degree in epidemiology.
Once she became a professor of epidemiology at the American University of Beirut, she underwent extensive research with the aim of advancing her understanding of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among the elderly in underprivileged and post war communities. Through her work she was able to improve healthy ageing in low as well as middle income countries which earned her the prestigious 2020 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Award for Africa and the Arab States.
Each of these women managed to showcase what can be accomplished in the field of science. Knowing that just 30 percent of women worldwide work in science makes each woman on this list a prime example of how this long standing trend is slowly getting shattered and dismantled. With it being 2023, we believe even more women will rise to the occasion and achieve breakthroughs never before imagined.