The Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI) and the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, two of Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s (HBKU’s) specialized national research institutes, are playing an active role in supporting Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development’s Qatar National Day 2015 celebrations at Darb Al Saai. Aiming to encourage Qatar’s youth to take an interest in the sciences, interactive exhibitions and workshops designed by the research institutes are attracting large crowds of young people.
QBRI’s “Isolate Your DNA and Take It Home” activity encourage children to learn about genetics and give them the opportunity to work and act like scientists in order to interest them in pursuing a career in science in the future. The children have the chance to dress as scientist, wear white lab coats and gloves, and use a simple mouth wash to collect cells from their cheeks and then add some material which enables them to see their DNA.
During the activity, QBRI staff explains how it is possible to identify DNA, how each person’s DNA is a unique mix of their parents’ DNA, and how this determines one’s appearance. Parents, teachers, and university students have also taken part in the exercise, and have learned how studying DNA can help biomedical researchers better understand diseases and discover medical treatments.
The activity has attracted hundreds of participants per day, peaking the interest of many attendees in the field of genetics. Dr. Hilal Lashuel, Executive Director of QBRI, noted: “The National Day activities provide unique opportunities for QBRI scientists and staff to engage the public and increase awareness on the importance of understanding our genome and of improving the quality of healthcare in the country. This is crucial, as proactive engagement and mass public participation in biomedical research and national projects, such as the Qatar Genome Project and Qatar Biobank, are essential to successfully translate new discoveries into applications, products and treatment that will improve the quality of life and healthcare in Qatar.”
He added: “We plan to build on these activities and continue to explore different mechanisms to engage and educate the public on the work that is done at QBRI in hopes to inspire the next generation of scientists in Qatar. They are the future of biomedical research and Qatar.”
Dr. Julie Decock, Post-Doctoral Researcher at QBRI commented: “To see the wonder on the faces of the children and hear the words ‘I want to be a scientist’ is what makes participating in the Qatar National Day celebrations so gratifying.”
QEERI has also organized an interactive exhibition at the Qatar National Day celebrations in the form of an inflatable observatory, inspired by its Fascination Astronomy project. Funded by Qatar National Research Fund and in collaboration with the Supreme Education Council, the public engagement program involves QEERI scientists visiting schools in Qatar, spreading awareness of the science and provoking interest in astronomy.
At the exhibition, students learn basic information about the sun, planets and astronomy, linked to the Arab region’s rich heritage in understanding the universe and naming the stars. The display also mentions that two planets, discovered by QEERI’s acting executive director, Dr. Khalid Al-Subai, are named after Qatar.