A passion for science and a conducive educational environment is helping these women walk the scientific path.
For women students studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at the various Qatar Foundation partner universities, science is not just a field of study for them, instead they see science as something that surrounds each one of us, and all of us experience it in our daily lives. Commemorating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrated on 11 February every year, these students talk about their passion in science and their journeys in STEM.
While my friends would watch cartoons, Stars of Science would be my favorite program. It answered a lot of the questions on my mind
Ghalya Abdulla, a Chemical Engineering student at Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ), a Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university, was drawn to science at a very young age – she would often be curious about how things around her worked – and even started watching QF’s edutainment show Stars of Science regularly.
“While my friends would watch cartoons, Stars of Science would be my favorite program. It answered a lot of the questions on my mind. I felt that it was directed at me, which strengthened my passion for science and innovation,” Abdulla says.
Through her schooling years, Abdulla excelled in science subjects, which opened up the opportunity for her to study at TAMUQ.
“My university is part of my identity. It provides me with the knowledge and experience I need. I’ve had some amazing opportunities where I took on prominent leadership roles at the university and participated in important events. Such experiences have shaped my confidence, and now I truly believe in my abilities to excel in whatever I do.”
It is believed that the family is the foremost and critical support for any girl on her educational journey – the belief that a girl is no less intelligent than her brothers or that she can excel and assume leadership positions in scientific centers.
“Women and men are equal in scientific skills and intelligence, so the influencing factor is not gender, but rather the individual's capabilities and the amount of effort they exert in developing themselves. As girls, we may find ourselves fighting traditional perceptions that try to limit our capabilities, and in this case, we let our success speak for us,” Abdulla says.
A woman’s place is wherever she chooses to be – women are capable, intelligent, and skilled
She adds: “Being a woman in science gives me greater motivation to excel, and I often imitate my mother who has balanced her family, work and all aspects of her life so beautifully. In fact, I believe that women in science are forces that can make a real impact in the world.
Zainab Al-Ansari, a student at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar, another QF partner university, believes that although science may be studied in schoolbooks, it plays out in the world and everywhere around us. She says that growing up, what she loved the most about science was the way it allowed her to understand something that she had observed.
Al-Ansari refutes the idea of defining educational fields based on gender, and that women are still struggling with it, whether this means they had to fight their way into scientific fields or simply had to deal with passing comments with misogynistic undertones.
We may choose the science path because it simply brings us a feeling of joy, especially when carrying out scientific experiments
“While the arts and literature are wonderful majors, they should not be fundamentally associated with women only. I am lucky enough that I grew up in an environment where I was supported, regardless of whether I chose to study art, medicine, or anything else. Having teachers and family who are supportive makes all the difference.”
A woman’s place is wherever she chooses to be – women are capable, intelligent, and skilled, and they should have the opportunity to apply those virtues in whatever setting they choose, Al-Ansari says.
“My hope for women is that we all grow up to choose our own ‘place’, and moreover, that we recognize that we can be as multifaceted as we like, belonging in more than one environment.”
Another science student, Elizabeth Abraham, from TAMUQ, says she enjoys working with puzzles, and that “no matter how simple or complex any phenomenon is, science provides us with an opportunity to discover what it is, which excites us to explore more about the world we live in.”
The environment at my QF school, is stimulating for everyone, especially for us girls, to unleash our capabilities, innovate and achieve more success
“We may choose the science path because it simply brings us a feeling of joy, especially when carrying out scientific experiments in the field of physics and chemistry, as each discovery leads to a sense of achievement and constitutes a motivation for further learning and development”. she added.
Tayiba Mozafirgia, a student at Qatar Academy Doha, a school under QF’s Pre-University Education, says she thoroughly enjoys working on science projects and experiments, and her constant attempts to prove a hypothesis – which when ultimately proved – drives her further to invest her time and energy in science.
“In my opinion, science is a field full of challenges but is also fun at the same time. This is what I experience here at my QF school, where the environment is stimulating for everyone, especially for us girls, to unleash our capabilities, innovate and achieve more success for ourselves,” Mozafirgia says.
She adds: “I learned from the teachers in my school that nothing is impossible for us, and that every girl can aspire to be in any scientific field she wishes to. As students of science, every girl must believe in her potential to become a role model to be emulated in her society.”