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Saudi scientist chosen UN Goodwill Ambassador

Hayat recognised for outstanding efforts to bring youth closer to innovators

Image Credit: Supplied
Hayat Sindi
Gulf News

Manama: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has appointed Hayat Sindi, a Saudi researcher, as a Goodwill Ambassador to support science education, especially among girls.

Irina Bokova, the head of Unesco, said that Hayat’s nomination was “in recognition of her work to create an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and social innovation for scientists, technologists and engineers in the Middle East and beyond.”

The nomination was also attributed to “her efforts to bring the youth closer to innovators and her dedication to the ideals and aims of the organization,” Unesco said in a press release.

Hayat, born in Makkah in 1967, has made major contributions to point-of-care diagnostics, medical testing at or near the site of patient care, specifically designed for the vast number of people who do not have access to hospitals and medical facilities, the Paris-based organisation said.

“She made this contribution through the invention of a biochemical sensor with thermo-elastic probes and her development of the Magnetic Acoustic Resonance Sensor (Mars).”

The position will empower Hayat to “support science education, especially inspiring more girls to enroll in science subjects, and the visibility of Unesco’s natural sciences programmes, particularly those pertaining to life science education.”

As a Unesco Goodwill Ambassador, she will also help mobilize funds through her professional network to support the agency’s priority activities.

According to Saudi media reports, Hayat grew up in a family of eight children with a traditional upbringing and enormous love for knowledge. She said she ahd special admiration for Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Al Khawarizmi, Einstein and Marie Curie who have made outstanding contributions for the welfare of humanity in different areas.

“I dreamt I would be like them to make a difference to the world and become a scientist,” she was quoted as telling an audience of ministers, business leaders, bankers and senior executives in the Red Sea resort of Jeddah in 2008.

Hayat holds a BS in pharmacology from King’s College, London, and a PhD in biotechnology from Cambridge University. When she earned her PhD, she wanted to use her knowledge and expertise for the benefit of humankind.

“A true scientist should focus on affordable simple solutions to reach everyone in the world,” she said, quoted by Arab News.

Hayat said that Muslims should excel in scientific innovations and should use them for the wellbeing 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. We have the power to make breakthroughs.”

Muslim countries should focus more on science and technology and increase budgets allocated 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,” she said.

Last year, Hayat who has lived in the West for her adult life, told a Western publication that she had deep respect for her culture.

“I am very proud of where I came from. Sometimes people think they need to discard their culture completely. But you have to hold on to your identity,” Hayat who wears a headscarf told the Daily Beast.

The list of the Unesco’s Goodwill Ambassadors includes Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela of South Africa, United States jazz musician Herbie Hancock, Cuban ballerina and choreographer Alicia Alonso, and Dubai-based philanthropist, educator and entrepreneur Sunny Varkey.