Posted on December 08, 2015

Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), a member of Qatar Foundation Research and Development (QF R&D), recently held a two-day workshop in partnership with CRDF-G entitled ‘Women in Science’ at the Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU) Student Center.

By playing host to the conference, QNRF demonstrated its dedication to promoting knowledge acquisition and fostering a progressive society, while supporting Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development’s (QF) vision of positioning Qatar as a hub of research excellence.

The initiative was designed to provide mentorship opportunities in science and technology-related research to female scientists in Qatar who have completed their PhD studies in one of four main areas: the ecology of infectious diseases, environmental science, cyber security, and materials science in energy. Over two days, female researchers from the US and Qatar discussed gender issues and navigated cultural challenges related to careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with female graduate students in Qatar.

“The event was very successful in terms of giving the opportunity for academic and industry leaders to meet, face-to-face, and discuss how to inspire women to pursue careers in research,” said Dr Abdul Sattar Al-Taie, Executive Director, QNRF. “The initiative aims to fill the gap between the number of successful females graduating with science degrees and the number of females proactive in the research workforce, which represents a treasure trove that Qatar can tap into for meeting the increasing demand for scientists and researchers.”

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The specialised workshop was designed to highlight opportunities and develop recommendations on how to encourage more women to enter the fields of science and engineering, and network with some leading women researchers from Qatar and the US who could offer them mentorship and guidance in their research careers. In her keynote speech Dr Asmaa Al-Fadala, Director of Research at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) and Assistant Professor at Qatar University, highlighted her journey in pursing her PhD from Cambridge University, including the challenges she faced and the lessons she learned.  

The keynote speech opened the floor for three panel discussions addressing topics that are relevant to women in science, such as challenges to pursuing a career in science, where a number of prominent Qatari female scientists enriched the different panel discussions with their experiences. Some of the women included Dr Mariam Al Ali Al-Maadeed, Director of Advanced Materials Centre at Qatar University; Dr Asma Al-Thani, Head and Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Qatar University; Dr Ilham Al-Qaradawi, Professor of Physics at Qatar University; and Dr Sumaya Al-Maadeed, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Qatar University. In addition, a number of female leaders in the industry were also present, such as Dr Jennifer Dupont, Research Director at ExxonMobil Research Qatar (EMRQ); and Dr Marwa Al-Ansary, Technology Manager at Qatar Shell Research and Technology Centre (QSRTC).

At the end of the event Ms Noor Al-Merekhi, Director of Programs at QNRF, announced that QNRF would go on to develop a new programme designed to provide internship opportunities to female graduate students in the labs of prominent researchers in the US. “QNRF is keen to promote the professional development of female graduate students by offering them a chance to experience the reality of a career as a research scientist” she said. “The presentations we have seen over the last two days on women’s contributions to science have been inspiring and now we need to demonstrate the benefits of such a career choice to the next generation of young scientists and engineers. After all, they will be the key players in transforming Qatar into a knowledge-based economy,” she concluded.