The Year 2011 Women in Chemistry: Dr Zainab Abo El-Naga at TEDxTanta

Uploaded by TEDxTalks on 03.10.2012

peace be upon you
I'm glad to be with you today
glad that i had the chance to talk
to you about basic sciences,especially chemistry
i know that most people never enjoy a speech about
chemistry , equatios , reactions , etc ..
i know people are not always fans of such talks.
but i promise i'll talk about "new fashion of chemistry"
which means "up-to-date chemistry"
just like what Mohammed hesham said
just emphasizing his talk's gist
we will talk about the sustainability princible
all we need to do is that the Egyptian society changes its mindset
and begins to use applications
chemistry is the basis of manufactirng , it provides industrial products
and chemical applications which are usually environmental friends
just to change our society to a healthier and better one.
i'd prefer to talk first about the sceince
to know what where the title came from
first of all ; I'm not a chemist , not a specialist or expert
i graduated of biological chemistry sciences
and sure , circumstances obliged me to tend more to biology
so, I studied biology , graduated , and got the master degree at entomology
though i was generally a chemist , but the circumstances of designation
i accepted the challenge and proved to the cheif of that department
that he was wrong when he thought that a female are not nominated for high positions
and once a woman is married , she can't acheive anything useful.
but i proved to him the opposite , and became the first of my specialization
yet, he still refused to promote me , and stayed without installation for a whole year
so, i made use of that whole year by studying the introduction to the master
and i entered the entomology branch
just to skip that person and continue my way
especially that i had started to fight for what i needed by law
i would not stop at that person
as long as I believed in how i needed all my rights for better accomplishments
he even said to me :"you can't succeed in that branch , it's too difficult to you!"
and I replied :"so let's just wait."
and i then ,thank god, I became the first
My main challenge was that i needed to do something unique
So , I had chosen a branch that includes both zoology and chemistry sciences
and it was a very uncommon and new idea
From my very start at my study
I've always believed in the scientific acheivements of arab scientisis
and that they made the basics of recent technologies we are familiar to now
even such as cameras , internet
all recent inventions were manufactured according to Arab sciences and achievements
I always realized how Arab scientists had no limits between a science and another
they had "Ibn sina" who was both a voyager and doctor ,
and also"abu bakr errazy" who was generally a scientist and physician.
they mastered more than one science
that's what inspired me to the idea of studying chemisrty in balance with zoology
So,I went to the professor of chemistry
I told him that i needed to study the chemistry of nature
not that chemistry of laboratories and experiments.
just as the engineer"Mohammed"said:
that we already have the power and energy
and all we have to do is use it for our own good
That was exactly what I wanted to do ,
use the energy of chemistry existing inliving things , from the moss & fungi to flowers & monkeys.
we worked on the secondary metabolites
which means the chemical compounds other than proteins,carbohydrates,and lipids
which all living things produce
and started to notice it's effectivenss as pesticides
and decided to produce a pesticide from nature
We worked on critical insect pests
such as mosquitoes, which resulted in medical crises during the second world war
just once the scientist "Miller" discovered by chance
that DDT kills mosquitoes , won the nobel prize.
So, Nobel Prize now only needs creativity and thinking outside the box
and all of us can win it that way
Till now we could split some compounds that are very active biologically
and tested them on mosquitoes
tested also on other critical insect pests
including the kinds that harm stocked grain like wheat and generally stocked products
Then , what's the new advantage ?
the new special thing about those pesticides is the safe use
so that you can tell the user clearly that he won't have to worry
about any side effects that could harm you or anything else
exposed to the pesticide except the insects pests you need to kill.
Then , I had a trouble at first , trying to recognize the chemical form of pesticides
that I work on , while preparing my PHD in 2006.
and that problem was with 2 things
I had been too young
and I had no chance to travel abroad.
because only older people were included in the scholarships.
and I really wondered , how could retired people go
but those who still can acheive more stay
However, I again didn't stop,
I used the internet and sent to german universities
for i knew that they cared most about the 2 branches I had been related to
Sciences, and Engireeng
A German chancellor replied to my e-mail and told me
that he was very excited to know that I combined the 2 sciences together,
Zoology and Chemistry
and that he was ready to help me
so , I sent him back and told him that I had splitted a compound
and that new compound needed single crystal Xray
and that technique wasn't provided in my country
He told me to send him the sample so that he could help.
it was written in my dissertation "done in an unusual way"
that it was half prepared abroad and the owner didn't travel
and there had been discussions about that through the internet
and I went to my professor and showed him the German professor's report
he immediately told me to keep going till I get the PHD
I felt vey excited for that had always been my dream
that the year 2007 wouldn't end without my PHD.
And 2 weeks later , after the discussion, I travelled to germany
in a post doctor fellowship.
my professor and I made a lot of research there.
we met great scientisits and researchers there.
and it was a great chance to meet a nobel prizer for chemistry
he was "Harold Kroto"
the polymers scientist who taught me a lot in just one lecture
he also inspired me alot when he said that youth
are the substructure of civilizations all around the world and history
I also asked him after the lecture
"what do you think is the best advantage about the most recent era of scientists?"
and he replied :"the internet ,.."
it dispelled any borders between a country and another all over the world ."
and said that the newest generation is very fortunate to have this advantage.
that overture to the whole world , the internet.
what a great lecture !
I wish I could tell it all to you now
The best thing I learned from him that any scientist shouldn't just live in an ivory tower
and the scientist should communicate with all people and explain my science to them
from the kids to the old.
the day was as precious as a year
unfortunately , the Egyptian fund had been cut and we were back to Egypt.
and my mates in Egypt kept asking me :"you bothered the german and came back!"
and i took that as a challenge that I would be back to Germany one day
I won the challenge again and acheived my best there
but the most interesting was that whenever I aimed for a goal
I was always met by surprises and experiences
In 2011 I made a great scientific publication
because I always formed international teams for that
publication is made in Egypt , and there in Germany untill there's integration
that gets a new creative idea to the light zone.
in 2011 I had a great opportunity
and a great surprise when I got an e-mail from the german publishing house "vaily"
saying the UNISCO wanted to nominate a woman from the developing countries
working in sustainable chemistry
They sent me their contacts
and there , the communications cut took place during the revolution
when all Egyptians suffered distraction and anxiety.
Then, i wondered,"do I have to stop or go on ?"
but I decided to go on and stick to my goal
because maybe I'm almost there.
I contacted "Vaily" and had an inteview through phone
They asked me a lot of questions that focused on knowing my mindset
my field of interest
and my effectiveness in other fields other than my specialization
and , at last , I was accepted as the July 2011 woman in chemistry
But then, what does that title mean?
There was once a polish woman , called "Marie curie"
who confronted the attitudes of her country
that was against women's scientific studies , work or research.
There had also been poverty and default then.
That woman's parents early died and she continued her way
, travelled to france with her sister,
and met there the great scientist "Pierre curie"
who married her and supported her brave message
untill they got Nobel Prize in 1903 for physics
They discovered the radiating eliment"Uranium"which was added to the periodic table
Marie continued her scientific research until lshe discovered more about Uranium
and discovered its effect on other different gases
and then won the Nobel Prize on her own in 1911
and for the first hundred years passed after the first woman who won Nobel Prize
The UNISCO wanted to commemorate that by searching for female scientists
to support women in sciences
and at the same time , for supporting sustainability in developing countries
so the UNISCO could encourage the role of women in science that way
and I was honored to have such an epithet as a one Arab and Egyptian lady
among 10 ladies from all over the world
I have one last thing to say ,
I wanted to say that though I wasn't really a chemist
but I have now the epithet "the 2011 woman in chemistry"
because I had the enough strong ambition
the another interesting thing is that I need to do another sustainable thing
Chemistry is not just chemistry
and biology isn't just biology
It's the spirit of science that we need
all our society must believe in it.
I met a team in Braunschweig University of Technology in Germany
while I was in the summer school in 2008
They were working on the project of management of sustainable water
Why not join them ? I think my country has a problem in water supply
it needs real stronger management
and we already have many energy resources that we can use for that.
and that's the project we are working on in the present time
that includes 39 countries all around the world
and supported by many international organizations like UNISCO
The project concentrates on how to deal with the problem of pesticides with sanitation
unfortunately , the strategy of the developing countries still uses unlawful pesticides
, carcinogenic pesticides and others that caused kidney faliure
we really need to fight that pollution
by using the microalgea
the team is now using microalgea after it's done with the pollution treatment
and then we do the harvesting process , and extract the organic oil
which can be used as lubricant oil
and this is a new technology
which even if Egypt can not apply it , it can be among Egypt's exports
and it's so great because
just as Mr"Mohammed"said :"Egypt always has the sun"