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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Asrar Damdam, founder/CEO of UVERA and PhD. student at KAUST studying electrical and computer engineering. (Supplied)
According to a 2020 study published on statista.com about the gender distribution of 2018 STEM graduates in Saudi Arabia, Communications and IT is the most popular major among female graduates
JEDDAH: In the past five years, Saudi women have taken great strides in scientific fields and, with the support of the government, the best seems yet to come.
Saudi women are now serving as leaders in their research fields, and many have gone on to serve as deans, directors of research centers and more.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya, Hind Al-Zahid, undersecretary for women’s empowerment at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, said that “the percentage of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is higher than men” in the Kingdom.
According to a 2020 study published on statista.com about the gender distribution of 2018 STEM graduates in Saudi Arabia, Communications and IT is the most popular major among female graduates.
Asrar Damdam, founder and CEO of UVERA, is one of the many Saudi women who are not only pursuing degrees in STEM but also working for the empowerment of women by providing them with job opportunities.
She told Arab News that she followed her passion and obtained a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering followed by a master’s degree. “Now I am a Ph.D. student at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. It wasn’t an easy start but as soon as I entered the job market five years ago, many companies were not only welcoming to women but many were searching for them to join. Times have changed and you now see more women exploring their options in various fields of science.”
Technology. It wasn’t an easy start but as soon as I entered the job market five years ago, many companies were not only welcoming to women but many were searching for them to join.
Asrar Damdam, Founder and CEO of UVERA
With her company based in Silicon Valley, she opened a syndicate in the Kingdom. Damdam has found that her recent female recruits are passionate about their work and are going through the learning curves required to excel in their respective fields.
“Their work ethics are exceptional and their passion is felt as they continue to provide insight and finding innovative ways to reach the company’s goals,” she said. “It’s because of their passion that they are able to contribute and it wouldn’t have been achievable without the programs that provided me and the many women in the fields of STEM with these opportunities.”
This was reiterated by Al-Zahid, who spoke of Saudi Arabia’s eagerness to pursue empowerment for women and to provide them with adequate positions fit for their fields of expertise.
“The numbers tell the story,” she said, adding that international markers have shown the Kingdom’s pursuit in empowering women in the labor market is exceeding expectations.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.”
Dr. Manal Al-Malki was recently appointed dean of the Faculty of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Jazan University. She has been its vice dean since December 2017.
She worked at the university as a lecturer between August 2014 and January 2017, and has been working as an assistant professor since February 2017.
Al-Malki holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Taif University, a master’s degree in information technology from Melbourne University, and a Ph.D. in health informatics from the same university in 2016.
She was a researcher at Melbourne University between April 2012 and July 2016.
At the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, she was the leader of the health informatics competencies framework working group between March 2018 and December 2018.
The goal of the project is to expand the field of health informatics in the Kingdom through the creation of a competency framework that defines the core knowledge and skills underpinning this specialty.
Al-Malki is recognized by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society as an innovation leader and selected to be one of the anticipated 50 future leaders in healthcare IT.
She is interested in the use of wearables and applications for health self-management within clinical settings, lifestyle medicine informatics, health self-quantification, health population, consumer health informatics and related behavioral change concepts and principals, healthcare information technology and mobile health.
12 Saudi women now in prominent international sporting positions
JEDDAH: Female participation in sport in Saudi Arabia has shot up by almost 150 percent since 2015, the Kingdom’s sports minister revealed.
Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said far-reaching changes as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan and the influence of Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan have been major factors in contributing to the success.
The minister hailed the princess as a great role model who had inspired her peers and country
through her sporting achieve- ments, playing a crucial part in promoting mass participation in sports and carrying out important work on the board and as a member of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) women and sports committee.
Princess Reema recently took part in the first Gender Equity and Women Leadership Forum, organized by the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) and the International Taekwondo Federation, that targeted women’s welfare in sports.
Following her lead, many female achievers have been elected as members of international sports organizations.
These have included Princess Haifa bint Mohammed, who became chair of the women’s committee of the Arab Union, and Princess Reham bint Saif Al-Islam who was appointed as a member of the Arab Swimming Federa- tion’s women’s committee.
The Kingdom’s first female boxing coach, Rasha Al-Khamis, became a member of the women’s committee for the Asian boxing organization, Abrar Bukhari sat on the women’s committee of the Asian Taekwondo Federation, and Sarah Al-Fayez was elected a member of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) media committee.
Asma Al-Yamani, meanwhile, became a member of the World Tennis Tour Committee, Aseel Al-Hamad was nominated a member of the Women in Motor- sports Committee at the Interna- tional Motorsports Federation, and Haya Al-Dossary took on the role as a marketing committee member for West Asia of the International Table Tennis Federation.
In addition, Adwaa Al-Arifi became a member of the AFC and Arab Football Confederation, and Dr. Razan Baker was appointed chairperson of the International Bowling Federation’s women in sports committee.
Saudi sportswomen have also notched up around 100 medals in events at regional and interna- tional levels.
Fencing topped the list for Saudi female sporting achievements. The sport’s federation has been one of the leaders in investing in the training of women of all ages, with academies in Jeddah, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province.
Fencing has delivered around 29 medals including four bronzes in the epee event at the 2016 Arab Games held in Riyadh. In 2018, Saudi fencers bagged one silver and three bronze medals at the Juniors Arab Fencing Champion- ship in Jordan, and in the same year they brought home a bronze from the Arab Fencing Championship in Tunisia.
In Kuwait’s 2019 junior fencing championship, they scooped one gold, one silver, and five bronzes, and collected a gold and two bronzes in the Asian Qualifying Round of Fencing Champion- ship in the same year in Riyadh.
In 2020, they won two silver medals at the Arab Women Sports Tournament in Sharjah, and one silver and two bronze medals in Manama’s Junior and Youth Fencing Championship.
At the Virtual Confederation Championship, the women’s fencing team secured single gold, silver, and bronze medals.
Second place went to the judokas with 15 medals, all won in 2019. Two golds, two silvers, and eight bronzes were from the Estonia International Judo Championship; a gold, silver, and bronze came in the West Asian Judo Championship.
Not to be outdone in third place were the taekwondo ladies with one gold, two silvers, and four bronzes from the 2019 and 2020 GCC and Arab Taekwondo championships.
Tied at fourth place with four medals each were the female equestrians and weightlifters.
Equestrienne Dalma Malhas gave Saudi Arabia its first bronze medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore. Riders also collected two more bronzes and one silver at the Sharjah tournament in 2020.
The women weightlifters snatched their two golds, one silver, and one bronze in Gulf tournaments and the West Asian Championship.
Other sports where Saudi women broke into the medal column were: Rowing, through Kariman Abujadail, who won a gold medal at the Gulf Rowing tournament in Sharjah in 2020; boxing courtesy of Najd Fahad with a gold at the virtual Univer- sity World Cup in 2020 and Dona Alghamdi with another gold at the International Leaders Champi- onship in 2018 in Jordan; kick boxing through Zahra Alqurashi, who claimed first place at the International Clubs Champion- ship in mixed martial arts in 2019 in Jordan; and archery, from its women’s team that clinched bronze during the Sharjah Arab Women Sports tournament in 2020.
Elsewhere, the Saudi women football leagues were inaugurated, and saw participation of 10 teams last November in three cities. The football federation, in collaboration with the Leaders Development Institute, offered coaching courses to create oppor- tunities for Saudi women who were keen to become professional football coaches without the need to travel abroad.
The Saudi Archery Federation also launched a tournament featuring more than 25 women archers.
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.
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