Saudi medical scientist Nouf Al-Numair hopes success will be contagious after clinching British Council award

Nouf Al-Numair, second from left, received the British Council Alumni Award for Social Impact during a ceremony in Riyadh recently. (AN photo by Iqbal Hossain)
Updated 09 March 2018
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Saudi medical scientist Nouf Al-Numair hopes success will be contagious after clinching British Council award

JEDDAH: It is not unusual for young girls to watch their mothers prepare meals, but one girl in Riyadh liked to pretend the kitchen was her laboratory, and the ingredients were the chemicals that intrigued her. For Saudi scientist Nouf Al-Numair that was the start of a fascination that led her to the study of bioinformatics and molecular genetics.
Now she is investigating the future of diseases before they even come into existence through genetic mutation; her job involves predicting diseases’ reactions to personalized medicine and treatment. Besides the biology and genetic knowledge, she uses more than seven programming languages to analyze human genes.
A scientist at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, Al-Numair is also an assistant professor at Alfaisal University’s College of Medicine and a visiting researcher at the Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology.
She was recently awarded the British Council Alumni Award for Social Impact. She spoke to Arab News about her accomplishments and how she hopes to use the recognition to help create a positive image of Saudi women. She also spoke of the importance of overseas study in the accomplishment of her goals.
“I discovered my passion for genetics early on and was determined to study the subject more deeply and from the perspective of merging the science of molecular genetics and computer programming,” Al-Numair said.
“There were no such courses available in Saudi Arabia at that time, and I was told by many people that it was too difficult to merge the two sciences and so they discouraged me. I took the chance, however, and decided to follow my passion and make my dreams come true. Back in 2008 and 2009, this particular field of study was not available in Saudi Arabia, so I had to go to the UK for specialized courses. Even in the UK my field was not common and there was a lot of experimental work, but I stuck to it and was determined to succeed and be the first Saudi with these qualifications. My coursework was often personalized and if I had not been able to do my degrees and training in the UK, I would never have achieved my aim.”
Living in London presented challenges, but those challenges helped her to gain a broader understanding of various perspectives — invaluable for a scientist.
“In my group we had more than seven nationalities. I learnt how to open my eyes and my mind to listen to other people’s thoughts and opinions,” Al-Numair said. “I have always believed that socially and scientifically you must be able to look at other people’s views and their ways of thinking. Of course, different cultures, different background, and different educations all had a great impact on me. I was stepping out of my comfort zone, but I learnt how to do it, and this gave me confidence and the ability to explain myself. I was a kind of ‘opposite’ but not in a bad way, but opposite in a different way. Understanding that and coming to terms with it was a great step forward for me.”
The British Council award is of particular significance to Al-Numair, and she hopes that her story will inspire other young Saudis to consider scientific careers.
“They did not give me the award because I am a Saudi who worked in a certain field. People in Britain realize that I can have some impact in Saudi Arabia, and I think that the impact on the younger generation will be great and that they will see new possibilities for themselves,” Al-Numair said.
“I really want to encourage the younger generation to involve themselves in science. I really want to help in the empowerment of women and show them that they can have both family and a career. We can be scientists; we are bright, smart and can engage ourselves in the community and in our work. From that, we will get confidence and determination to succeed as well as to live and enjoy our lives.”
While Al-Numair investigates future diseases and tries to keep them in check, she hopes her success will be contagious.
“I want to encourage girls who studied in Saudi Arabia, attended Saudi schools, graduated from Saudi universities, to have the same chances I had,” she said. “They can succeed, and they can get what they want because they see me in front of them as an example. I sincerely want to have an impact on them.”


Joint Incidents Assessment Team 'abides by transparency' in Yemen

Updated 25 September 2018
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Joint Incidents Assessment Team 'abides by transparency' in Yemen

  • JIAT spokesman said the team is transparent in the way it announces its results for incidents in Yemen

RIYADH: The spokesman of the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) in Yemen, legal consultant Mansour Bin Ahmed Al-Mansour, has stressed that the team abides by transparency in announcing the results of engagement in Yemen.

Al-Mansour was speaking on Tuesday at a press conference at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh assessing  incidents. 

The cases included an incident in Malh Town where Human Rights on Yemen stated that on Feb. 18, 2016, during the intensity of combat, a family tried to leave and Coalition Forces targeted the vehicle, causing the death of nine family members and their relatives, injuring three.

JIAT investigations revealed that the target was located 1,600 meters from the coordinate given by the National Commission, and after reviewing the daily mission schedule, JIAT found that there was no air mission on the village of Malh. 

It was also claimed that the Coalition Air Forces on Nov. 10, 2017 targeted the ministry of defense and the fall of a missile on Alsa’adi neighborhood next to the ministry injured 23 civilians. JIAT found that there was a gathering of high-level Houthi leaders inside the building so considered it a legitimate military target. 

On Feb 2, 2018 an airstrike on a target 500 meters away from the warehouse of the UNHCR in Sa’dah city caused damage to the warehouse and injured the guard. JIAT found that the Coalition Air Forces targeted a legitimate military target (a leader from the Houthi armed militia). 

Coalition Forces on March 31, 2015 targeted the national cement factory in Lahj, causing the death of at least 10 people and injuring at least 13 others. JIAT found that the target was 360 meters away from generators and the production line, and was not aimed at the operational infrastructure. JIAT found that the procedures of the coalition in targeting the weapons, ammunition warehouse and AAA inside the factory were in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Al-Mansour announced the findings of investigations into the Radfan water factory north of Lahj governorate. JIAT found that intelligence stated that it was used for weapons storage and as a meeting place for hostile elements and was considered a legitimate military target.

JIAT looked at a High Commissioner for Human Rights report that stated that on Aug. 7, 2016, Coalition Forces carried out two airstrikes on a residential and commercial building in Sana’a, causing the death of 16 civilians including seven children and a woman, and injuring 24 others. JIAT found that Coalition Forces did not target the buildings and confirmed that the procedures of the coalition in targeting the truck were in accordance with international humanitarian law. 

Human Rights Watch stated that on Feb. 14, 2016, Coalition Air Forces targeted the Middle East Tailoring and Embroidery Factory in Sana’a city, causing the death of one laborer and injuring three others. 

JIAT found that on Feb. 13, 2016, intelligence received by the Coalition Forces indicated there were meetings of Houthi armed leaders in a hanger in Sana’a that had been used as an embroidery factory before being controlled by the militia.

Regarding reports by international organizations about a civilian boat being attacked by a military ship on March 16, 2017, the boat arrived about 30 nautical miles from Alhudaydah port and was intercepted by a military ship that claimed to belong to the Coalition Forces and opened fire. Passengers signaled that they were civilians but the ship opened fire with a submachine gun, and a helicopter took off from the attacking ship and opened fire, causing the death of 33 people, injuring 29. 

JIAT found Coalition Forces did not target the refugee boat for several reasons, including that the shooting on the boat was horizontal, making it impossible for it to come from a helicopter, and the size of the weapon used showed the marks of small-caliber fire, not medium or large caliber.