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Science masterclass: Catalysts

Published online 13 December 2016

Middle-Eastern minds creating a ripple effect.

Pakinam Amer

© Getty Images
Change requires bravery. Within science circles in a resource-poor, war-torn and widely conservative region, innovators, dreamers, and visionaries not only stand out, but are vital to accelerate success.

In this new series, Nature Middle East talks to seasoned scientists who are pushing for change by bringing new trains of thought to science in their home countries and engaging young researchers in an effort to educate, motivate and inspire them. 

Protagonists for reform may find themselves troubled by academic politics, but not Ramy Karam Aziz. The imaginative Cairo university microbiology and immunology professor believes he can make a dramatic difference in the teacher-student relationship, and in the way his course is taught, from the bottom up. Aziz is shifting students’ mindsets, and preparing them for rigorous lab research through educational innovation. 

Professor of nuclear physics Rajaâ Cherkaoui El Moursli talks to NME’s Louise Sarant about how she dovetailed her big ambitions with her commitment to homeland and family. El Moursli, an award-winning scientist and CERN researcher, is the instigator of a new research programme for youth, the first of its kind in the Arabic-speaking Middle East.

Professor of chemistry, Hassan Azzazy, a leader in the field of novel diagnostics, is riding the wave of innovation, thriving in the West but sometimes thwarted in parts of the Arab word. Azzazy, based in Cairo, tells Sarah Elmeshad how he’s pushing his protégés beyond lab bench work and into entrepreneurship, through university-backed “offshoot” startups in the area of public health.

Finally, Mohamed Boudjelal, prominent medical researcher, writes about mentoring relationships. Boudjelal offers some tips to mentors and peers who are new to the region.

The momentum generated by these scientists, plus many other role models, may set the pace for thousands of budding scientists in the Arab world, and help them navigate the changing world of science and academia.


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