Distinguished graduate students use the latest sciences to accelerate the pace of research.
Genomics and biomedical science have led to some of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the last 50 years. Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s College of Health and Life Sciences (CHLS) has introduced programs that accelerate the pace at which Qatar’s next generation of scientists can tackle the most pressing health and developmental challenges facing Qatar and the region.
For Dala Al Sharshani, the Master of Science in Genomics and Precision Medicine program at CHLS – graduating its first cohort on May 4 – is enabling her to contribute to research on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – a condition that is not uncommon in Qatar and around the world.
“My thesis focuses on identifying the common risk factors associated with ASD in Qatar. This study is the first of its kind in Qatar to explore the common environmental and genetic risk factors associated with the condition.”
The academic program aims to better understand the genetic basis of some of Qatar’s most prevalent diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and cancer, which pose a unique set of health care challenges.
Dalal finds she is able to leverage what she learned through the program to benefit her work as a nurse in the Outpatient Department at Hamad Medical Corporation.
“As healthcare providers, our main goal is to offer the highest level of care to all of our patients. By incorporating genetics and genomics in patients’ care plans, we can provide personalized medicine to better tailor care for each patient.”
“The professors and researchers at HBKU provided me with valuable personal and professional guidance, and have taught me a great deal about systematic research. The knowledge and skills I have gained at HBKU is reflected in my performance and dedication to my job.”
Like the Genomics and Precision Medicine program, HBKU’s PhD in Biological and Biomedical Sciences focuses on the vital skills that enable students to design scientific research and hone their technical expertise to create new knowledge.
Ahmad Najjar is one of the students comprising the first cohort who will graduate from the program in May. He obtained his Bachelor’s in Biology and a Master of Science in Freshwater and Coastal Sciences from University College London. After graduating, Ahmad went on to teach at schools in London and then at Qatar Petroleum’s Mesaieed International School.
The PhD program offered at HBKU presented an opportunity to integrate the knowledge he’d accumulated from different areas of biology. “From a young age I was deeply fascinated with scientific phenomena, particularly biological processes. Earning a PhD in Biological and Biomedical Sciences has been a lifelong dream of mine. Being able to apply my knowledge in a field I am passionate with results that will have a real impact is what I’ve always hoped for.”
Ahmad’s PhD dissertation was able to build on his master’s studies in water biology and water conservation. But his research on novel ultrafiltration polymeric membranes at CHLS saw him make very rapid strides in a short time, and Ahmad was able to uncover an alternative suite of membranes capable of filtering real treated sewage effluent (TSE) without the need for frequent cleaning and replacement, offering an alternative to costly processes such as thermal desalination.
Ahmad is grateful for the moral support from his professors, and the use of the innovative resources from HBKU’s other research centers, including Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute. “The QEERI Core Lab staff were particularly helpful and instrumental with the characterization work of my functionalized nanofillers and fabricated membranes, and the staff at QEERI’s Water Center provided me with full access to their advanced laboratories and resources, which were instrumental to my research findings.”
“I was lucky to have supervisors who empowered me to perform and achieve my full potential by trusting me and treating me as a colleague rather than a student. Their mentorship gave me confidence in my scientific reasoning and deduction skills when analyzing data and troubleshooting.
“HBKU is rapidly gaining recognition as a respected academic institution in Qatar and the region. The results of extensive research efforts by both students and faculty have been published in reputable, internationally peer-reviewed scientific journals and patents for technology and inventions are being registered at an increasingly fast pace. Being at HBKU during such an active and exponential phase of its growth has been both rewarding and gratifying.”