NYUAD: What is your research focus at Oxford?
Bana Alamad: I’m working on a few projects. One of them is looking at genetic determinants of immune response to COVID-19 vaccination. We’re trying to identify genetic factors involved in having a unique or extreme response to vaccination. Some people respond extremely well while others extremely poorly.
I’m also studying the genetics of some of the most common diseases in the Middle Eastern populations. Currently, the Middle East population is one of the most underrepresented in genomics literature so I would really like to contribute to changing that.
NYUAD: Why is the research important to you?
I’ve always known that I wanted to do cutting-edge genomics involving patients and clinical samples. In genomics, especially in the context of immunology, we are really at the forefront because there’s so much work happening with vaccines and understanding of the mechanisms related to different immune cells and diseases.
Home Country: Jordan
Current: Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil), Genomic Medicine and Statistics, University of Oxford
I want my research to have downstream potential, which means having applications in the clinic and in personalized medicine. Having an understanding of genetics and ability to perform different lab techniques and computational analysis means that I can take this research in any direction.
The Middle East population is one of the most underrepresented in genomics literature so I would really like to contribute to changing that.
NYUAD: What has been the highlight so far?
I am trained in phlebotomy and spent almost three months driving around the UK collecting blood samples from study participants. I went to almost every single city in the UK. It has been an adventure, meeting people and talking to them about my science. It made me realize how much I love science, especially fieldwork.
NYUAD: How did NYU Abu Dhabi contribute to your development?
I had an incredible mentor, Professor Youssef Idaghdour. In his lab I realized that I’m absolutely amazed by scientific discovery. It’s thrilling. I also got the chance to use cutting-edge technology like single-cell genomics, which is very unique. So when it came time to choose my DPhil I already knew what the standard for good science was and had an understanding of the field.
The arts continue to make me a better scientist.
NYUAD: What made your time at NYUAD feel unique?
The arts! I was always running between the ERB (Experimental Research Building) and the Arts Center. I took classes on sculpture, Arabic typography, and mixed media arts. The balance between the arts and sciences is what made my experience so memorable. NYUAD gave me the space to explore these two parallels and how they often intersect. There’s so much creativity that scientists have which is rarely talked about. The arts continue to make me a better scientist.
Edited for clarity and length.