Inspiring women in African and Middle Eastern science

Dina Alsharkawy is a researcher at Botany Dept in the Faculty of Science, Suez Canal University, Ismailia Egypt. In addition to her work researching the conservation of medicinal plant species, teaching Plant Ecology and Biodiversity and acting as an editor for the Catrina Journal, Dina is engaged in promoting women in science.

ecrLife caught up with her to discuss research and women role models in African and Middle Eastern research.

Do you remember when you decided to pursue a career in science?
Since primary school, I loved the science courses and was good in [them] all. Then during college I decided to be specialized in botany and in my MSc I choose ecology, since graduation I knew I [was going to pursue a] science career. Can’t name myself a scientist yet, but to be one day.

Can you tell us about your experiences training?
I have experience with plant ecology, medicinal plants, field work and soil analyses. Also I got a great experience in microbiology, in isolation and characterization of actinobacteria and rhizobia and symbiotic relation between microbes and plants. On the other hand I have been trained and acquired a quite good skills in project management, team building, team leading, writing proposals and some other courses.

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Can you tell us a bit about your outreach/activism activities?
I think my outreach is being a part of the [eLife Ambassador Community] as an African or middle eastern lady in science, it’s a milestone to be known and reach the worldwide communities as be in touch with others. I have a good network all over Europe and hope to widen my network more and more.

You are also a member of 500 Women Scientists which is described as ‘a resource for journalists, educators, policy makers’ where people can contact you. Why did you get involved?
I joined because I found it a good place to be in as it is gathering a lot of lady scientists in different fields, and also it is a great thing to be in this list and help others in your field or even in other ones.

 

Why do you think it is important to have female role models in African and Middle Eastern science?
Ladies are least represented in science in the Middle East and Africa, but once they are known, they remain at the top. I think to be a successful lady, will inspire others to do the same and encourage them to … fight for there future, here in my department most of the students are females in the biology section, but guess what? after graduation most of their families need them just to get married and sometimes even not to work. It’s about obtaining the degree only. They already know that a well educated lady will not only represent half of the society but will raise the other half well, that’s why we need more educated ladies and more empowered ones.
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Is there anyone that particularly inspired you?
I have many in different fields … but the one who really was like a spark in my life was a university member who is a novel writer, he was a doctor, unfortunately he passed away last week, leaving my heart in deep grief. He was like an encyclopedia for me, he knew everything in science and in life and just wrote it in a simple, interesting way.
I aimed to do this with my major to make science fun and enjoyed. I owe him for brightening my mind. And for making me seek knowledge everywhere.
What is the biggest challenge you faced in your career?
The most common sentence, why you do science or research, it gets no money, here we are not well paid, so scientists are among the poor ones [Smiling face]. But it’s my interest and pleasure to be among books, paper articles and lab.
Also, the society always think that as you are a lady you better be in the kitchen than in the lab, and let your place to a man who needs the work more than you.
Do you have any advice for others?
I encourage every lady to do her best, to be free and to trust herself and be sure that she will get that trust back. I like to be a representative for my community and my country, it’s encouraged me … to be better and continue in my research career. So, for all – never stop dreaming or flying, one day you will achieve it all, keep working and trust in Allah (God).
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You can follow Dina on Twitter, and she has profiles on ResearchGate and LinkedIn 

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