I believe my passion for science helped me decide to pursue a career in scientific research. I still remember how I was inspired by the biography of Marie Curie during my English classes at school and how my eyes would sparkle with joy when I was selected by my Chemistry teacher to handle chemicals in the school laboratory and try new experiments.
After graduation from the School of Pharmacy at Ain Shams University in Egypt and finishing my clinical training at the Children’s Cancer Hospital in Egypt, my passion for pursuing research grew even more. I wanted to continue to pursue cancer research and work to improve the clinical outcomes of chemotherapeutic agents as well as decreasing their side effects for patients.
Fortunately, I was able to join the British University in Egypt (BUE) as a teaching assistant and earned my Master’s in Pharmacology of Chemotherapeutic Drugs. Being one of the first staff to join BUE had a great impact on my career because I was able to contribute to the foundation of the School of Pharmacy there. BUE gave me the opportunity to contribute to the establishment of every single aspect of the undergraduate courses. This was special because teaching assistants at other universities do not typically have this opportunity. Most importantly, I had the chance to meet reputable researchers and academic doctors and learn about their scientific ideas and opinions regarding the development of medical research in Egypt.
After a few years of hard work, BUE established a reputable undergraduate pharmacy program. It was now time to begin establishing research laboratories to actively contribute to the production of good scientific research. I was asked again to contribute by managing the establishment of a new cell culture facility. At that point, I realized that I needed more scientific experience and training beyond what I had learned in Egypt. Consequently, I applied for a 2-year Fulbright fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis and was lucky enough to be accepted and join the Herrlich Laboratory.
Receiving the Fulbright fellowship was the best thing that happened to me and now I have access to one of the most impressive laboratories in the world. I have been introduced to some of the top-rate technologies in scientific research. In fact, I am receiving the best training and experience imaginable, and both my theoretical and technical skills are growing quickly. I was warmly welcomed by everyone at the lab and they have given me great support and guidance since my first day in the United States. I am learning more about how to observe, evaluate scientific problems, and how to handle them successfully. I believe when I am back in Egypt, I will be a different person and will be able to contribute greatly to the scientific community there.
Overall, my fellowship is going well and one extraordinary achievement is that I recently received The Kidney Stars 2018 Award from the American Society of Nephrology (ASN). The grant provides $1,000 in travel support along with a complimentary registration to the ASN Kidney Week which is the world’s biggest nephrology meeting. The goal of this award is to support talented people interested in pursuing a career in nephrology. The program provided me with a unique opportunity to attend large scientific seminars, lectures, networking events, and career guidance. I finally met many professors in-person who I had only spoken to through email when I was in Egypt. Since the meeting was held in San Diego this year, it gave me the chance to enjoy the beautiful city and to stand in front of the ocean for the first time in my life!
Additionally, the experience of living in the United States has greatly impacted me on a cultural level. I was exposed to the American environment and culture with all its diversity. There are many unique celebrations in America such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Independence Day. I made many new friends and had the opportunity to visit several American cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and San Diego. Every state and city in the U.S. has its own culture and I believe the international communities in the United States make it one of the greatest countries in the world.
The Fulbright Program has had a tremendous impact on my life. My skills in networking, scientific work, and cross-cultural understanding have grown exponentially. I have big plans and big dreams and I feel more confident taking on new opportunities and risks. Thank you, Fulbright, for helping me reach the best version of myself!
Mai is a non-degree grantee from Egypt. She is currently studying at Washington University in St. Louis.