L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awardee | Dr. Nura Adam Mohamed
This month, we feature Dr. Nura Adam Mohamed, who recently made the scientific and research community in Qatar proud by receiving the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award. Dr. Mohamed is a graduate of the Biomedical Science Department, College of Health Sciences (CHS)-Qatar University, a former member of QNRF’s Qatar Research Leadership Program (QRLP) through which she received a scholarship to study her MRes and PhD degrees from Imperial College of London. She is currently working as a Research Associate at the Biomedical Research Center (BRC) at Qatar University. We ask her about her academic and research journey and her insights into the important role that women can play in the RDI ecosystem of Qatar.
- Can you share with us your academic journey and how did you decide upon a career in research in the biomedical sector?
During my postgraduate studies, I became interested in nanomedicine, a promising area that is attracting national and international interest, especially as the world is moving towards developing targeted therapeutics, and personalized medicine.
Since then, I have focused on developing nanoparticles that have cardio-protective effects to be used as advanced treatment strategies for cardiovascular diseases and complications associated with diabetes. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic metabolic disorders in Qatar, the Gulf region, and the world, and cardiovascular complications are the most common complications of diabetes. Studies have shown that uncontrolled and persistent metabolic abnormalities caused by diabetes can damage large and small blood vessels and lead to various cardiovascular diseases.
This shows the importance of developing non-traditional therapeutic tools. Therefore, my research focuses on developing nanoformulations and using them as drug carriers which in addition to transporting diabetes drugs have properties that enable them to reduce cardiovascular complications.
- How does it feel to be honored as a For Women in Science Award by L'Oréal-UNESCO and what does it mean to you?
I am happy and honored to win this prestigious award, particularly because this award will help me set an example for my students and colleagues, and encourage more women to join the scientific research community which will increase the representation of female researchers in Qatar, the Gulf area and the Middle East.
Furthermore, this award will enable me to build collaborative relationships with world-leading scientists in the field of nanomedicine. Most importantly, this award creates a platform for female scientists to celebrate their achievements and empower other scientists which is a necessary step to promote the participation of more females in all areas of scientific research starting from basic research to decision-making levels.
- Please tell our readers more about the research project that helped you achieve this honor and what impact it aims to achieve.
Diabetes in Qatar, the region, and the world has an estimated prevalence of ~424.9 million that is prone to increase to ~628.6 million by 2045. Moreover, cardiovascular complications are the most common complications in diabetes and the leading contributor to illnesses. As diabetic patients suffer from vascular abnormalities, it could lead to many cardiovascular diseases including nephropathy, retinopathy, stroke, upper/lower extremity amputations, and other diseases. This stresses the importance of developing nonconventional novel therapeutic tools that not only help produce drugs for diabetes but can also prevent the development of abnormalities in vascular cells.
My research focuses on developing nano-pharmaceuticals that deliver antidiabetic drugs and can also minimize the cardiovascular complications associated with diabetes. Furthermore, these nano-formulations have cardioprotective effects to battle the high prevalence of diabetes.
- How has being a woman in science defined your experience as a researcher in Qatar?
I think I was lucky enough to meet and get to know strong female scientists during my career which immensely influenced and shaped me to be the researcher I am today. Being a female in the scientific research field is not easy as it comes with many social and work-related internal and external challenges that could create a gender gap in the scientific field. Therefore, by discussing and finding solutions for them we will be setting an example for our future scientists.
In my opinion, female empowerment should start as early as the primary school level. Hosting public engagements and welcoming young girls to open research days and later encouraging them to volunteer in the research field, can help expose them to STEM education and research. This will build their research and academic skills and improve their independence thereby preparing a strong and experienced generation.
- How do you see the role of women in the R&D sector in Qatar and the region, and what do you think are some steps that can increase the participation of women in science?
Women in Qatar and the Gulf area, in general, have achieved remarkable successes in various fields, including the scientific research field. These achievements have enabled us to make remarkable progress in the Middle East region as a whole and to participate as an effective partner in consolidating and building the scientific research field. The active participation of women has contributed to enhancing their role in the development of society, which was achieved thanks to the continuous support provided by our leadership and government.
However, this progress and development in the status of women in the scientific research field is still punctuated by some difficulties. There are challenges of reconciling work and family in light of increased work pressures and the urgent need to increase the production capacity, in addition to the social and cultural challenges, and the desire of the Qatari female scientists to preserve their unique identity. Therefore, it is important to find possible ways that can help us overcome these limitations and to amplify their voices so that the conditions of females in science will further improve.
- Any advice for our students who are still in schools and want to grow up to explore careers in STEM fields as an impactful woman in science like you.
My advice to students and young girls who want to build a career in the STEM fields is not to be afraid of making mistakes and to consider every failed step during the early stages of the research career as a motive to move forward towards their goals.
Moreover, always remember that success never comes easily. Even behind every successful scientific project is a large number of failed attempts that help us learn, grow and be stronger. Most importantly, I advise them to not lose their identity along the way and to always remember who they are, where they come from, and what they want to achieve while always helping each other. In the end, I would like to say that one person’s success in the research field is a success for all of us, so let us remember that and always focus on the bigger picture – the ends are always worth the struggle and sacrifices we put into getting there.