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.”


KSA, Mauritania sign MoU to promote moderate values in society

Saudi Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Abdulatif Al-Asheikh and his Mauritanian counterpart Ahmed Ould Ahl Dawood at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs headquarters in Riyadh on Sunday. (SPA)
Updated 10 December 2018
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KSA, Mauritania sign MoU to promote moderate values in society

  • The Mauritanian minister hailed the strong bonds and historical relations between the two countries and their cooperation in many fields

JEDDAH: The Saudi Islamic Affairs Ministry on Sunday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Mauritania’s Islamic Affairs Ministry to increase cooperation in different fields and to promote the concepts of moderation in Islam.
The MoU was signed between Saudi Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Abdulatif Al-Asheikh and his Mauritanian counterpart Ahmed Ould Ahl Dawood at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs headquarters in Riyadh.
The MoU included nine main articles. It envisages cooperation in introducing Islam and its position on contemporary issues, serving the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, and cooperation in mosque affairs, their construction and maintenance.
In addition to that, the two sides will work under this MoU to adopt and propose programs to explain and promote concepts of moderation in Islam and assist the progress and advancement of Muslim nation in various fields.
The two sides will also share information, coordinate their efforts during international events, and cooperate in preparing studies and conducting research related to protecting, reviving and spreading Islamic heritage.
The MoU also stated that the two sides shall encourage the exchange of visits at various levels, participate in Islamic seminars and conferences held in both countries, and form a joint committee for the implementation of the MoU’s content.
The MoU concluded that the Hijri date is to be used in all correspondence between the two sides. The MoU shall enter into force on the date of its signature between the two sides and it shall be implemented within five years and will be automatically renewed for the similar duration unless one side informs the other that they wish to amend or terminate it.
Al-Asheikh said: “This memorandum of understanding comes under the guidance of King Salman and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in the framework of the distinguished historical relations between the two countries, especially in serving Islam and Muslims.”
He referred to what has been achieved through Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent visit to Mauritania, which was the first visit of a senior Saudi official to Mauritania in four decades to strengthen relations between the two countries to unprecedented levels.
Al-Asheikh pointed out that the MoU will promote joint cooperation in various fields.
The Mauritanian minister hailed the strong bonds and historical relations between the two countries and their cooperation in many fields.
He also praised the articles of the MoU, which he described as important and historical.