Mariam Al-Maadeed is a Professor of Physics and Materials Sciences & Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies at Qatar University. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the Environment & Sustainability section of the journal Emergent Materials.
Tell us about your background
My name is Mariam Al-Maadeed and I am a professor of Physics and Materials Science at Qatar University. I received my B.S. degree in Physics from Qatar University (Qatar), and both my M.S. and Ph.D. Degrees in Materials Science from Alexandria University (Egypt). I see myself foremost as a scientist, focussing on understanding the (often beautiful) structures of polymers, nanomaterials and nanocomposites. My research has allowed me to build a broad international network of scientists, academics, and industry professionals with whom I collaborate with regularly. My research has been published in over 130 peer-reviewed publications, and has resulted in a number of patents, edited books and international conference contributions. I have received several awards such as the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) Prize in Science & Technology in 2016, the Leadership Excellence for Women Award (Mentorship Award) in 2015, the Gulf Petrochemicals Association Plastic Excellence Award in 2014, and the state of Qatar award in Physics in 2010.
As an educator, I am highly interested in improving STEM education and I am a member in the popular ALBAIRAQ educational program in Qatar (http://cam.qu.edu.qa/research/CAM/al%E2%80%93bairaq/about-al%E2%80%93bairaq), which won the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) award in 2015. As the Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies at Qatar University, I am responsible for drawing the roadmap of research in Qatar in order to meet local challenges, and ensuring the robustness of this research. My role also means that I must maintain strong links with budding and established entrepreneurs and the industry. I have promoted policies to improve equal gender opportunities in STEM education and the support of youth interest in STEM subjects.
What does being a woman in STEM mean to you?
STEM disciplines are an important feeding tube into the economy and the fact that they have historically excluded women means that society has been deprived from realising its full potential. There is a dire need to improve policies related to women in the workplace and specifically their access to STEM fields, and an even more important conversation needs to be had regarding the culture that excludes women in those fields. Awareness and mentoring programs are important and highly needed, especially in the Middle East, but we cannot pretend to exist in a vacuum and if we want to see more women in STEM we need to ask tough questions about what is truly holding them back.
The next time you speak with a young female researcher who shows passion for STEM, what would you most want her to know?
My initial response would be to congratulate her for pursuing her dream, and I would advise her to remember that passion and delight she has in her research whenever she finds herself against a seemingly insurmountable professional hurdle. I would want all young women in STEM to know that they can be role models for both male and female researchers, and that their very presence in STEM sectors is trailblazing and inspiring to many. It is a great pleasure that young Arab women are now actively pursuing STEM educational subjects, especially at Qatar University where the latest statistics show that 64% of undergraduates and graduates are females.