Nouf Al-Numair, a jet-setting young scientist from Riyadh, is working tirelessly to encourage Saudi youths to take an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
She could be the perfect role model for those who wish to make a name for themselves in the field, especially considering her call for lab-bound scientists to get out there and show off their achievements on social media.
She obtained an MSc and a Ph.D. in bioinformatics and molecular genetics from University College London (UCL).
Despite still being in her early 30s, she now works as a bioinformatics and molecular genetics scientist at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center.
She is also an assistant professor at the College of Medicine at Alfaisal University and is engaged in volunteer work.
After pursuing her undergraduate studies in Saudi Arabia, Al-Numair headed to the UK. “After my internship at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, I spent time rotating between different labs,” she told Arab News.
Nouf Al-Numair, a jet-setting young scientist from Riyadh
“It was then that I realized I wanted to explore how two different scientific fields — the pathology of molecular genetics and the technology of computer science — could merge. At the time of my placement, this approach wasn’t available at universities and hospitals in Saudi Arabia.”
But the fashionable scientist, with perfectly-coiffed hair and a chic abaya, insists the move was about so much more than just her academic dreams.
“Going abroad and studying there, living there and exposing myself to a different education… will enrich me as a person,” she said.
“Everyone can access knowledge — on the Internet, in books — but the experience itself… is one of the main reasons.”
Al-Numair is especially grateful to her family for supporting her desire to pursue her dream. “When a family sees potential, they should really take care of it and polish it to convert this interest into a real thing,” she said.
But young aspiring innovators who do not have family support should still follow their passions, as it is up to the individual to make it work, she added. “I wasn’t taught this dream or passion, I practiced it.”
Al-Numair is now one of the first Saudi scientists to major in molecular genetics and programming biological information, a precise science that enables practitioners to read the future of diseases before they come into existence through genetic mutation.
She uses more than seven programming languages to analyze human genes. She has published several papers and has spoken at multiple international conferences.
“Since I was young, I always thought of myself as a creator, an innovator. Even then, I wanted to be a pioneer of an interesting field,” she said.
In 2014, Al-Numair was honored by the Saudi ambassador to the UK in a ceremony celebrating outstanding students for their scientific achievements.
She decided to return to the Kingdom to pursue a career in STEM as “Saudi Arabia is my birth country. Who does not want to return home?”
In the Kingdom, she works tirelessly to encourage interest in the science and technology sector. “I’m a member of the MiSK youth community (the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation). MiSK focuses on the country’s youth and provides different means of fostering talent, creative potential, and innovation that paves the way toward opportunities in the arts and sciences,” she said, calling on more young people — especially women — to take part.
“I hope that more Saudi and Arab women will join the field. This is why I’m participating in the #Championofscience campaign and developing videos with the British Council. We’re doing this because we believe it’s important to shed more light on stories of incredible women working in STEM, to inspire the next generation of girls to become leading scientists.”
British Councils across the Gulf are working to highlight Arab women working in STEM who are making a real difference in terms of research and innovation in their countries.
The council invited participants, including Al-Numair, to film a short video explaining why they chose to follow their dreams, in a bid to encourage young people to show an interest in STEM.
“Writing is good as you can express yourself, but a video, even if it’s only one minute… you’re speaking the language of the young generation, and with social media, it’s crazy now,” Al-Numair said of the campaign.
“We as scientists should be out there more. We should use social media and put ourselves out there and express ourselves. Why not use Snapchat just to picture my daily stuff like the labs and students? This lets the young generation understand that it’s a joy, because sometimes they stereotype science as boring, but it’s really not. If you really love what you’re doing, you’ll enjoy it,” she said.
“I believe it’s time for the media to put these achievements in the spotlight, and for scientists to use the power of social media to reach larger audiences and inspire future generations.”
Source: Arab News