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Sunday, 09 May 2021 10:33 GMT

Young Qataris pursue rewarding careers in science, research, and innovation


(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Doha: As Qatar is transitioning to becoming a knowledge-driven economy, it is gradually building a scientific community that is self-sustaining. A COVID-19 Response Report published in December 2020 indicates that innovation will remain at the heart of Qatar's economic transformation.

On this transformative journey are two young Qatari women, Faiha A. Al Qahtani, Project Management Specialist at Qatar Foundation's Research, Development and Innovation (QF RDI); and Fatima H. Al Kuwari, Data Analyst, at QF RDI's Qatar Genome Programme (QGP). Their contributions in the research, development, and innovation landscape of Qatar is helping to fuel not just the nation's development, but that of the region as well.

'All developed nations place great emphasis on their laws, policies, medicinal practices, and technologies, which are all fruits resulting from research, development, and innovation (RDI). Hence, the RDI sector of QF is the very heart of Qatar's progress which needs to continuously pump innovative ideas and drive Qatar to the future, said Al Qahtani. 'QF's vision is to secure Qatar's future in the global marketplace by building a knowledge-based economy, rooted in our cultural heritage. To achieve such a vision, we need to find home-grown talent to help us fulfill this, she told The Peninsula.

For Al Kuwari, who's relatively new to both QF and the RDI scene in Qatar, she feels extremely enthusiastic about the efforts being undertaken in the country. 'The amount of opportunities and support available for researchers is very encouraging, and I am glad I can be part of it to create a more welcoming, ethical, and fair environment for new researchers and well-established ones.

Al Kuwari works at the QGP — said to be the largest genome project in the Middle East. The main mission at QGP is to promote genomic research and clinical implementation handin-hand with local researchers and international collaborators. All of this is done with the aim to build a centralized healthcare system, and for Qatar to be a leading country in precision medicine implementation.

And Al Qahtani's work at QF RDI involves supporting and enriching the RDI environment in Qatar — specifically the innovation ecosystem. Al Qahtani works closely with young, talented, and motivated local entrepreneurs regularly, listening passionately to their innovative ideas and their future aspirations. 'The team and I interact with individuals both inside and outside of QF to further collaborate on potential ideas. This involves following up with bright prospective entrepreneurs in order to bring their ideas closer to the market, she said. Both Al Qahtani and Al Kuwari have been passionate about science since they were in school.

'I owe my deep interest in STEM to my mother, school teachers, and professors at university. They always believed that I could achieve so much. I remember when I was in grade 4, one teacher told my mother that her daughter could become anything she wanted do. Years later, I still remember her words and will never forget them, Al Qahtani said.

Al Qahtani completed her undergraduate studies from QF partner university Texas A & M University at Qatar. She believes that the motivational and a nurturing environment around her has strengthened her resolve to succeed. Al Kuwari had realised that her interest in science, and more specifically in genetics, became more apparent during her high-school years.

'I remember the first thing that sparked my love for genetics was a book about the theory of evolution and human diversity I bought during a book-fair school trip, she said. And while these young Qatari women found their path at a young age, as well as opportunities to pursue their passion, do they see Qatar's RDI environment open enough to welcome and nurture the youth? However, despite Al Qahtani's and Al Kuwari's optimistic view of more Qataris joining the RDI sector, she thinks there are roadblocks that can impede improvement.

'Yes, I do see more Qataris joining the RDI field. I meet new Qatari researchers in most, if not every, project I'm involved in, and I hope I can see more of us, said Al Kuwari. Al Qahtani said, 'While QF has put tremendous effort to pave the way for more students joining RDI by establishing Education City — bringing worldclass universities and building state-of-the-art research facilities — we still need other entities to join the nations' effort. 'Moreover, we need to place positive emphasis on research, train individuals, and keep this effort going on for decades. This cannot be achieved in a few years. All great nations have established themselves so by continued effort and dedication. We need to re-emphasize these core values in the youth from a very young age with the help of parents, teachers, and communities. And QF has the means and capability to make this happen, she added.

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