Woman Scientist From Makkah Steals the Limelight at IDB Event

JEDDAH, 6 June 2008 — Dr. Hayat Sindi stole the limelight during an award ceremony organized by the Islamic Development Bank Group on the occasion of its governors’ conference at Jeddah Hilton on Tuesday night. IDB President Dr. Ahmed Muhammad Ali had invited her to speak on “The value of science and innovation in the developing world.” It was a distinguished gathering of ministers, business leaders, bankers and senior executives from 56 IDB member countries.

The young scientist, who hails from Makkah, impressed the audience when she said, “A true scientist should focus on affordable simple solutions to reach everyone in the world.” She has started a new company called Paper Diagnostics Inc (PDI) with professor George Whitesides and others. PDI is a for-profit company with non-profit objectives to create a better quality of life for the deprived sections of society.

Sindi referred to her background that contributed to the marvelous progress in her life. She was born and brought up in a family of eight children with a traditional upbringing and enormous love for knowledge. She admired characters like Ibn Sina, Al-Khwarizmi, Einstein and Marie Curie, who have made outstanding contributions for the welfare of humanity in different areas.

“I dreamt to be like them to make a difference to the world and become a scientist,” she told the delegates. Sindi now holds a BS in pharmacology from King’s College, London, a Ph.D. in biotechnology from Cambridge University. When she earned her Ph.D., she wanted to use her knowledge and expertise for the benefit of mankind.

She also has plans to build a world-class biotechnology center of excellence in Saudi Arabia with the support of Harvard and MIT.

She gave the delegates an insight into her academic progress. Two years ago when she visited Harvard, she was offered the job of a visiting scholar at a very special scientific lab, which has been making great discoveries and bringing real products to societies in need, with extremely low-cost products. “I was more than thrilled to be invited to work there, especially among scientists from 27 countries,” said Sindi, who was the first Muslim to work in that lab.

Sindi urged Muslims to excel in the area of scientific innovations and use them for the welfare of humanity.

“Being smart and having resources is not enough for true breakthrough innovation to change people’s lives. We need to aim science at these issues in order to make the impact.”

Sindi sounded extra confident and inspiring when she said: “We have the power to make breakthroughs.”

She called upon Muslim countries to focus more on science and technology and increase their spending to develop the sector. “I believe that we can put science and society hand in hand and we should customize science for the benefit of the developing world. Small people can achieve big dreams,” Sindi said to continuous applause from the audience.

Written by: P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News