NYUAD Outreach Team Inspires Future Scientists

From left to right: Sager Al Mannai, Khulood Alawadi, Matt Karau, and Ted Bongiovanni.

Last spring, Hayat Al Hassan attended Think Science—the UAE's biggest science fair for youth—as a high school senior at Al Ittihad Private School in Dubai. Fast forward one year later, she's a freshman at NYU Abu Dhabi and volunteer member of the NYUAD Think Science team of faculty, staff, and researchers collectively aiming to spark an interest in science among secondary school students.

Thinking about majoring in chemistry, Al Hasan said her motivation was simple: "I'm excited about science, and want others to be too."

Think Science, held May 7-9 in Dubai, is a platform for UAE youth to develop knowledge in the field of science and technology. The program, which includes a nationwide science competition, aims to motivate and inspire students to pursue their curiosity and passion and to investigate solutions that tackle real-world problems.

"We gave them a chance not just to see—but to do, and get a sense of what it’s like to be a student and researcher at NYUAD," Al Hassan said. "It was so great to see students fascinated and come to our booth and say, 'whoa, that's amazing!'"

Students investigate microscopic samples at the NYUAD Think Science fair exhibit.

NYUAD's Think Science experience was created by Primary and Secondary Education Engagement, in partnership with faculty. Biology Professor Youssef Ighadour showed students how to swab their own cheek cells so that they could make a slide and see their own cells, DNA and organelles. Hala Fahs helped students take a look at live C. elegans worms that help scientists understand how genomes work, and Khulood Al Awadhi introduced students to 3D printing and showed them how to transform their ordinary smartphone or tablet into a microscope using nothing more than a 3.5 millimeter glass bead.

One of the best parts of being a student at NYUAD, Al Hassan added, is how accessible faculty are to students; sometimes even just a car seat away. The ride to Think Science from Abu Dhabi to Dubai became a rolling seminar in biology, genomics and ethics led by Professor Ighadour, who discussed his research on longevity, cells and the human genome.

Think Science was also a learning experience for Al Hassan who took the opportunity to find out more about other things happening in classrooms around NYUAD, like the "ability to model and print things in 3D in both plastic and metal.”