INTERVIEW: Female Saudi driver feels right at home at Diriyah E-Prix

21/02/21

Saudi driver Reema Al-Juffali

Formula 4 driver Al-Juffali has high aspirations as 2021 Formula E season gets underway
RIYADH: Ahead of the 2021 Diriyah E-Prix double-header on Friday, Arab News caught up with Reema Al-Juffali, one of Saudi Arabia’s rising stars in motorsports. Al-Juffali, 29, talked about Formula E, sustainability and her dream race.

Q: You made history in Diriyah by becoming the first female racer to drive competitively in the Kingdom during the Jaguar I-Pace. What did that moment mean to you?

That was a day of many firsts for me and one I will cherish for the rest of my life. It was my first time racing in an electric car and my first time racing in an international event on home soil, so it was truly a historic moment for me and my country. I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to race in front of home fans and it was the highlight of my career so far. Hopefully, there will be many more opportunities like this in the future.

Q: The Diriyah Circuit has become one of the more iconic circuits in Formula E. What do you think makes it so special?

The circuit has been hailed by many drivers as a very unique and challenging track to drive. I think part of this is because we have the world’s most modern motorsport taking place on a site that honors the Kingdom’s past. It is a very special combination. Racing in the heart of Diriyah gives you a very strong feeling of connection to our Kingdom’s history. For me, having never raced on a street circuit before, I had to adjust to being closer to the walls while driving an electric car but it is something I love and will never forget.

Q: Now in its third year, we have seen Saudis become more engaged with the Diriyah E-Prix. Can you tell us about the excitement you are sensing ahead of this year’s race?

The passion for motorsport in the Kingdom runs deep. Bringing events like Formula E to Saudi is very exciting for racing fans who are not familiar with street racing. I am also very proud of the first Formula E night race to take place at the circuit on home soil, which will be an incredible moment for the country and the sport. It is fantastic to see the organizers making the most of the global spotlight that motorsport brings. It will showcase some of the beauty of our land and our capacity to put on brilliant, world-class events.

Q: Formula E stretches beyond just sports, it also aims to promote a sustainable and clean future, which is in line with the Saudi government’s initiatives. How important is it for a sport to promote the sustainability message in the Kingdom and beyond?

Our country is on a journey toward sustainability. Formula E’s message for promoting a clean future complements the aspirations of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. As a driver, I feel a responsibility to spread awareness regarding the need for a more sustainable approach to everyday life. I am honored to be a part of this journey towards a more environmentally conscious future.

Q: You are currently competing in Formula 4. What are your aspirations for the future?

One of my ultimate goals in life is to race Le Mans with some of the best drivers in the world. But more than anything I just want to excel in my field, regardless of the category or the event. I want to feel proud of my performance. The sky is the limit.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia opens military recruitment to women

Time: 21 February 2021

All applicants must have a clean record and be medically fit for service. (Supplied)

Defense Ministry adds extra criteria for female applicants; ranks from soldier to sergeant will be available

JEDDAH: Women can now join Saudi Arabia’s armed forces, following a ruling by the Saudi Ministry of Defense that opened the way for both genders to sign up through a unified admission portal starting Sunday.

Military ranks from soldier to sergeant will be available in the Saudi Arabian Army, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and Armed Forces Medical Services.
All applicants must pass admission procedures according to specified conditions, have a clean record and be medically fit for service. But some additional criteria have been added for female applicants.
Saudi female applicants must be between the age of 21 and 40 years old, have a height of 155 cm or taller, and cannot be a government employee. Female submissions must also hold an independent national identity card and have at least a high school education. Applicants married to non-Saudi citizens will not be accepted.
The age range for first-time male applicants is between 17 and 40 while their minimum height is 160 cm. There were mixed reactions to the ministry’s new unified recruitment standards.

FASTFACTS
• Military ranks from soldier to sergeant will be available in the Saudi Arabian Army, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and Armed Forces Medical Services.• Saudi female applicants must be between the age of 21 and 40 years old, have a height of 155 cm or taller, and cannot be a government employee.

• Female submissions must also hold an independent national identity card and have at least a high school education. Applicants married to non-Saudi citizens will not be accepted.

Operating systems specialist, Halah Al-Ynabawi, said Arab countries allowing women in the military has been a controversial topic over the past 30 years.
“But today, with the vision of King Salman, he has played a big role with the inclusion of women in all fields — governmental and now military,” she told Arab News.
“In my personal opinion, it is very important for women to be in the military, where they can have an active role in our conservative society.” Rahma Al-Khayri, an information technology specialist, shared a different point of view.
“Throughout history, we have not heard of a woman who came to the field and fought,” she said. “We always hear about women healing people, or perhaps monitoring supplies in the administration and in the control units. The man is the one who fights in the field.”

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Dr. Iman Al-Mansour, assistant professor at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University in Dammam

24/01/21

Dr. Iman Al-Mansour is an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Institute for Research and Medical Consultations (IRMC), affiliated with Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IAU), in Dammam.

Al-Mansour led many research projects from conception to execution at the department of epidemic diseases research at IAU and supervised graduate students and junior scientists.

She acted as the principal investigator on a number of key research projects related to the development of nucleic acid-based vaccines, the establishment of several virus bioinformatics databases and analysis resources, and virus immune monitoring studies.

Al-Mansour believes that investment in vaccine research is an important step to combat epidemics and pandemics caused by new viruses. This is followed by the localization of the manufacturing of vaccines and biological medicines.

She served as a Ph.D. researcher at the nucleic acid vaccine (NAV) lab at the University of Massachusetts, US, where she conducted rigorous research in the design, generation, and testing of DNA vaccines expressing HA’s of influenza (H1N1) strains.

Al-Mansour’s research is focused on cutting-edge technology to develop prophylactic vaccines against emerging and re-emerging viruses.

She earned a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and biotechnology from the University of Massachusetts, US, and a master’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences from the University of Rhode Island, US.

Al-Mansour received her bachelor’s in medical laboratory technology from IAU.

She is also an academic member at the European Virus Bioinformatics Center (EVBC), Germany, and a member at the International Society for Global health (ISoGH), in the UK.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Dr. Ola Abusukkar, executive director of King Salman Center for Disability Research

22/01/21

Dr. Ola Abusukkar has been executive director of the King Salman Center for Disability Research (KSCDR) since 2019.

Abusukkar is also the training and programs director of KSCDR. The center works to implement, fund and conduct field research in all areas of disability science and disseminate knowledge through training and publications.

Abusukkar is the founder of new direction programs for youth and adults with autism in Riyadh and the founder of the youth and adults with autism summer camp.

She became chairman of the scientific committee of the developmental and behavioral disorder program at the Ministry of Health in 2017. She was the educational diploma program project coordinator at the Saudi Health Council during the same year.

In 2020, Abusukkar was awarded the 21st Middle East Leadership Excellence Award for community service sectors, held in the UAE.

She was also honored with the Harry Watkins Outstanding Achievement Award for striving for excellence in higher academic achievement at Ball State University in the US in 2013.

Before her work for KSCDR, she was a consultant at the Saudi Health Council from 2017 to 2018.

In 2015, she became the special education department chairman at the College of Education at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University until 2017.

Abusukkar holds a doctoral degree in special education for autism spectrum disorder, a partial doctoral degree in applied behavior analysis and a minor in early intervention gained from Ball State University in 2014.

In 2013, Abusukkar completed a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis with an emphasis on autism from the same university.

She also gained a master’s degree in behavioral disorder, special education, from the University of Akron in the US in 2010, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from King Abdul Aziz University in 2005.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia to appoint women as court judges ‘very soon’

17/01/21

A “Saudi woman assuming a position of judge is very soon. There are initiatives on several levels.” (File/AP)

Al-Zahid reiterated the Kingdom’s eagerness to pursue women empowerment
She pointed out international markers that have proven Saudi Arabia’s progress on women’s rights
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia will “soon” be appointing women as court judges, an official said, in continued social reforms over the past years.
Hind al-Zahid, undersecretary for women’s empowerment at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, said a “Saudi woman assuming a position of judge is very soon. There are initiatives on several levels.”
In an interview with Al-Arabiya, Al-Zahid reiterated the Kingdom’s eagerness to pursue women empowerment, particularly in allowing women to participate in diverse fields.
She pointed out international markers that have proven Saudi Arabia’s progress on women’s rights, particularly noting Saudi women’s participation in the Kingdom’s labor market has exceeded expectations.
Their participation rate today has reached 31 percent, and this is a very big progress. As for the civil service sectors, the Saudi women’s participation rate has increased from 39 percent to 41 percent, and most of them are in the education and health sectors in addition to other sectors,” al-Zahid said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Two women put Saudi Arabia’s science talent in the spotlight

Time: 12 January 2021

These file photos show Lama Al-Abdi, left, and Asrar Damdam. (Supplied)

  • Asrar Damdam and Lama Al-Abdi honored by L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Program

  • In spite of recent progress, women remain a minority in the STEM professions worldwide, and especially in the MENA region

DUBAI: Saudi women are earning global recognition for their achievements in medical science and research. Two of them recently won awards from the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Program for their work.

One of the women, Asrar Damdam, 27, was honored in the Ph.D. students’ category for her role in the development of a pump meant to revolutionize the way a healthy heartbeat is regulated — combining medicine, electrical engineering and electro-physics.

“There are some diseases and heart-related behavioral activities, like heart failure, that can happen suddenly, and researchers are developing new solutions to this problem,” Damdam told Arab News.

“We were investigating the possibility of building a soft-sleeve device with a built-in actuator to support the heart muscle and aid the pumping functionality.”

The project was not without its challenges. The only platform available on the market was rectangular, which did not conform to the heart’s natural shape. When Damdam began her research, she turned to nature’s geometries for inspiration, from spirals to spiderwebs, before settling on the honeycomb.

“The beehive structure, which is an array of honeycombs, is the nearest to the heart shape,” she said. “Building a flexible and stretchable array of honeycombs was a very interesting idea to me, although it included lots of challenges. I liked it and presented it to my professor, who liked it too and approved it.”

Damdam then had to consider materials. Silicon was her first choice, owing to its favorable electrical properties, its abundance and cheapness. However, with her initial design, it was found to be too delicate.

After graduating from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in August 2018, it took Damdam a year to make her breakthrough, following countless experiments at a highly sophisticated nano-facility.

“The structure must withstand the heart’s expansion and contraction behavior without breakage,” she said.

“To overcome the silicon fragility issue, I used the regular honeycomb shape with serpentine sides. I designed the platform with a serpentine-shaped interconnect to form the sides of every honeycomb cell and also to connect the cells with circular islands, which are located in the middle of each cell, to be used as a host for electronic components,” she said.

“The serpentine interconnects introduced the stretchability feature, so when the heart expands, the platform doesn’t break.”

Damdam says all bio-compatible devices must be flexible so that they can adapt to the natural movement of the body and skin. “To achieve this, I made it very thin — around 15 micrometres,” or 0.015 millimeters.

Although her project marks only the first step, aimed at proving the viability of the concept, its reconfigurability means the wider scientific community can build on the idea and explore the tremendous technological possibilities it opens up.

“The successful demonstration of the reconfigurability concept using silicon also enables a lot of applications in bio-medical electronics,” she said. “This was my main motivation. If this research is improved, then it can really help in the early detection of cardiovascular diseases, in multi-sensory platforms and in the development of artificial hearts for transplantation.”

INNUMBER

  • 28.8% – Proportion of the world’s researchers who are women (UNESCO).

With the platform now fabricated and her research published in Applied Physics Letters Journal, Damdam’s attention shifted to the world of start-ups, helped along by an entrepreneurial training program in California sponsored by the MiSK Foundation.

While there, she won a competition and received funding for her start-up idea of using ultraviolet light to extend the shelf life of food. She says young Saudis have enormous potential in the world of business.

“We are very capable, educated and supported,” Damdam said. “We should give back to our community and country, and actively participate and support the development process.”

Another Saudi woman honored, this time in the L’Oréal-UNESCO program’s postdoctoral researchers’ category, is Lama Al-Abdi in recognition of her research on chromatin — a substance within chromosomes consisting of DNA and protein — and the regulation of genes in relation to vision loss.

Al-Abdi, who is in her early 30s, began her project a few years earlier as an extension of her Ph.D. research at Purdue University, Indiana, examining how certain chemical modifications impact DNA.

After hearing a talk on DNA modification, Lama Al-Abdi was inspired to develop projects on eye-development diseases. (Supplied)
After hearing a talk on DNA modification, Lama Al-Abdi was inspired to develop projects on eye-development diseases, pictured. (Supplied)

“It does not change the DNA per se, but it changes the shape of the DNA itself and how it interacts with its surroundings,” Al-Abdi told Arab News. “These changes can be inherited from one generation to another and they play a very important role in development, embryogenesis, cancer, obesity, diabetes, complex diseases as well as very simple diseases, such as any eye abnormalities that we may see.”

Al-Abdi, who began examining the theme of vision loss as an undergraduate at King Saud University, now works at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh. She has made significant contributions to medical understanding of mutations affecting the eye.

Al-Abdi and her team have recruited test subjects with eye abnormalities to determine whether their vision loss is the result of a mutation or a change in the DNA — or on top of the DNA — that may have contributed to the onset of disease.

“When I first started pursuing chromatin, I was just starting my Ph.D. and my professor invited a speaker,” she said. “The speaker started talking about modifications on the DNA, which, to me, was shocking because I had never heard of it before.

“I was just in awe because I thought I was quite well immersed in the field of genetics, but that was a whole new discovery, and I found that I knew nothing. That was the start and I was hooked.”

Al-Abdi is involved with several ongoing projects related to eye-development diseases and why more than one genetic abnormality can appear within the same family and what can be done to prevent suffering.

In spite of recent progress, women remain a minority in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions, especially in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

According to 2018 figures from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, just 28.8 percent of the world’s researchers are women. Female enrolment in engineering, manufacturing and construction courses stands at just 8 percent worldwide, while in natural sciences, mathematics and statistics it is 5 percent. For information and communications technology (ICT), the figure drops to a paltry 3 percent.

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As of 2018, less than 30 percent of the world’s researchers are women, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. (Shutterstock)

With female doctors, nurses and researchers playing a crucial role in the battle against COVID-19, experts have repeated their calls on schools, governments and employers in the region to do more to fix the imbalance.

Since announcing its goals for the Vision 2030 reform agenda, Saudi Arabia has been laying the groundwork for women’s empowerment.

Al-Abdi says she is thrilled to see young Saudi women benefiting from more encouragement and support to develop their interests and skills.

“I do see quite a lot of young talented women expanding their knowledge in all areas,” Al-Abdi said.

“I wish I had the tools and opportunities when I was younger, but now our government is putting a lot of effort into motivating, teaching and opening up opportunities that were not always available for us back then.

“It’s my dream to motivate and inspire people to do more.”

• Twitter: @CalineMalek 

This article was first published in Arab News

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Mai AlSokair, assistant director of corporate development at Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Humanitarian City

Time: 24 December 2020

Mai AlSokair

Mai AlSokair, the recently appointed assistant director of corporate development at Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Humanitarian City (SBAHC), has held prominent positions in several leading organizations. She began her career as a quality consultant at a hospital in Washington.
In 2015, AlSokair joined the quality department at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare and, within a few months, was tasked with managing the operations of the primary healthcare clinics as clinical administrator. Her performance qualified her to join the strategy department in 2018 where she set up the Enterprise Risk Management Unit.
During that time, she was asked to be the public relations and communications manager at the Saudi Society for Family and Community Medicine.
AlSokair has also hosted multiple conferences, lectured in different courses, and written articles for journals such as Okaz, Anaween and Quality Magazine.
She said: “Healthcare has always been a complex field to work in, and with the increasing demands and challenges, managing healthcare services is just as complex. The limitation in resources, the increased level of public awareness on their right for safe and quality services, in addition to the improvements in the healthcare structure and legislation, all create the everlasting sense of urgency for healthcare leaders to continuously be knowledgeable, alert, flexible and able to take critical decisions in a timely fashion.”
AlSokair gained a master’s degree with honors in healthcare systems administration at Georgetown University in the US. She was among the first graduates in Imam Abdulrahman University’s Health Information Management and Technology program.

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Female workforce boosted in Grand Mosque

20/12/20

A picture taken on July 29, 2020 shows pilgrims circumambulating around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the centre of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Makkah. (AFP)
  • Saudi leadership’s plans to empower women and ensure best possible services to female pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque in line with Saudi Vision 2030

MAKKAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has appointed around 1,500 females in its different departments to serve female visitors to the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
A total of 600 women have been recruited in the Technical and Service Affairs Agency. The rest of the female staff will be deployed in other departments of the presidency such as electric vehicles, Zamzam watering unit, guidance and intellectual affairs, administrative affairs, public relations, media and communication and the General Department of Internal Auditing.
Dr. Al-Anoud bint Khaled Al-Aboud, deputy president for women’s development affairs, said the step is part of the presidency’s transformational initiatives 2024. It aims to raise the level of services provided in the Two Holy Mosques, she said.
Al-Aboud also said it also part of the Saudi leadership’s plans to empower women and ensure best possible services to female pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
The presidency is continuously taking measures to serve pilgrims and visitors in the best possible manner.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Dr. Emtinan Al-Qurashi, assistant director at Philadelphia’s Temple University

14/12/20

Dr. Emtinan Al-Qurashi is the assistant director of educational technology at Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching in Philadelphia, US.

Al-Qurashi obtained a bachelor’s degree in translation and interpreting at the University of Salford, UK. She received a master’s degree in digital technologies, communication and education from the University of Manchester.

Al-Qurashi joined the King Abdul Aziz University as an English language instructor in 2011, where she remained for two years.

In 2014, she enrolled in Duquesne University (DU), US to pursue a Ph.D. in instructional technology and leadership. At DU, she started as a graduate research assistant before moving on to become an instructional consultant until her graduation in 2017.

Al-Qurashi then joined Temple University as a senior instructional technology specialist. She was promoted to assistant director of educational technology where she oversees the university’s branches in the US, Italy and Japan.

She has been recognized for her work by the Professional and Organizational Development Network and chosen as their Innovation Award Finalist for 2019.

In the same year, she received the “Division of Distance Learning Award” from the Association for Educational Communications and Technology in recognition of her quantitative research.

Al-Qurashi has written several research papers and books on education, educational technology and distance learning.

This article was first published in Arab News

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120% rise in female employees in Saudi industries

Time: 08 December 2020

This picture taken on December 18, 2018 shows a view of sky-scrapers along the King Fahd Road in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)
  • MODON reveals successful female empowerment strategy

RIYADH: Saudi women are finding more employment as private and government bodies strive to reach qualified women across the Kingdom’s economic sectors.

The Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technical Zones (MODON) revealed that the number of Saudi women working in the industrial cities it oversees increased by nearly 120 percent, reaching 17,000 female workers by the end of March this year.
Khalid Al-Salem, director general of MODON, said that the authority “has come a long way” and is still striving toward women’s empowerment in the industrial sector.
He added that MODON has made the industrial sector more attractive to women through innovative financing products, services and solutions that suit their important role in the national economy. Incentives for working women include the launch of industrial oases, which are characterized by the availability of nurseries, parking spaces and medical and recreational centers.
“These oases host clean industries such as medical and food industries, rubber and high-tech industries, as well as prefabricated factories supporting women entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises,” he said.

FASTFACTS

• 12 industrial cities located in the Riyadh region have 11,750 female employees.

• 13 industrial cities located in the Western region have 3,500 women.

• 10 industrial cities located in the Eastern region have 1,750 female workers.

Al-Salem added that 2021 will see the launch of small prefabricated factories to enable women’s investments in the industrial city of Dammam, a first for the Kingdom.
“MODON continues to empower women both as an employee and as an investor by creating a model environment in partnership with the public and private sectors,” said MODON’s director general.
He added that an agreement was signed with an insurance company to provide comprehensive services for investors in industrial cities.
He said: “MODON seeks to support the productivity of women by providing an optimal environment for their work. Therefore, it signed a memorandum of understanding with a building development company to implement nursery and kindergarten programs in industrial cities and oases under the Ministry of Education’s guidance.”
Al-Salem said that the strategy to empower industry and increase local talent aims to activate the role of women in industrial development in accordance with the Saudi Vision 2030 aimed at enhancing their role in the national economy.
“MODON succeeded in increasing the number of Saudi women in industrial cities, reaching 17,000 female employees by the end of the first quarter of 2020, compared to 7,860 by the end of 2018,” he added.

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