Dr. Hayat Sulaiman Sindi - Scientist and Humanitarian
Kaan Ya Makaan, Fee Hadir Al-Zamaan…
There was a Place, in Current Times…
Where Hayat Sindi was born. This place was the ancient city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Hayat was one of eight children born to kind and loving parents who worked hard to help their children realize their dreams and fulfill their true potential. They raised their children in a traditional manner and worked to instill in them both good morals and a healthy curiosity about the world around them.
Growing up, Hayat found herself drawn to famous scholars such as Ibn Sina, Al-Khwarizmi, Einstein and Marie Curie who had made such wonderful contributions to humanity. She dreamed that one day, she too would make a difference and so the bright-eyed little girl studied hard and became an avid and voracious student.
When Hayat graduated from high school, she went to college and majored in Medicine. During her studies, Hayat realized her true interest lay in research and so she decided to go overseas to continue her studies. Worried about their daughter, her parents opposed this and did everything they could to keep her from going. Eventually, they realized that she could only be truly happy if she were allowed to follow her dreams. And so this young woman who spoke little English bravely went to England to pursue her dreams.
Unfortunately, Cambridge University did not recognize her Saudi Arabian College courses and so Hayat was forced to repeat her studies. While there, a well-known scientist told the young Muslim woman she would fail within three months if she did not shed her headscarf (hijab) and change her ways. Turning a deaf ear to this irrelevant advice, Hayat continued to wear her scarf and focused on her studies. Once she had completed the ground work by getting a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacology from King's College University in London, the brilliant young Muslim woman went on to study Biotechnology, despite being told by another scientist that women could not be successful in that field.
During her doctorate studies, Hayat Sindi worked at the Schlumberger Lab Research Center in Cambridge where she invented the Magnetic Acoustic Resonator Sensor (MARS) device. She invented it because she needed an accurate machine for use in her research. The MARS machine combines the effects of light and ultrasound for use in the field of biotechnology. Additionally it has applications in other fields such as Medicine, where it has been used for diagnostics and cancer early detection, and the field of Environmental Preservation, because it is made of glass that resists atmospheric influence.
Finally, after long years of diligent studying and brilliant research, Hayat Sindi graduated with honors from Cambridge University with a Doctorate degree in Biotechnology. Thus Hayat became the first woman, the first Arabian woman and the first Muslim woman in the world to get that degree.
Determined to learn how to put her discoveries to work for humanity, most especially for those who normally could not afford medical care, Dr. Sindi went to the United States where she attended the MBA program at Harvard Business School in Commercializing Science & High Technology.
During her studies at Harvard, Dr. Sindi took a class by Professor George Whitesides that was working on using paper and adhesive tape to create a device that could reliably and reproducibly measure protein and sugar levels in urine and blood.
Inspired by the idea, and with Whitesides’ approval, Dr. Sindi created a team consisting of classmates and colleagues and formed a non-profit organization called Diagnostics For All to offer diagnostic tools micro-fabricated in paper which would allow healthcare workers to diagnose and treat those who did not usually have access to medical care. The DFA founders wrote a business plan that was entered into two contests:
- The Harvard Business School Business Plan Competition.
- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.
Dr. Sindi and her fellow DFA founders won both contests, setting yet another record by becoming the first non-profit company to win the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.
Later, Dr. Sindi started a company called Paper Diagnostics Inc. (PDI) with professor George Whitesides (and others) which is a for-profit company with non-profit objectives i.e. to create a better quality of life for those who could not normally afford or obtain medical care.
In addition to founding, and her continued involvement in, Diagnostics For All and Paper Diagnostics Inc., Dr. Sindi also founded Sonoptix Technology in Cambridge, UK with Saudi Arabian seed funding and she serves as Vice Chairman of Nano-Terra, Inc. a micro technology development company.
During her studies and since then, Dr. Hayat Sulaiman Sindi has no doubt accomplished a great deal. Following is a list of some of the honors and appointments bestowed upon her in recognition of her amazing scientific achievements:
- She was appointed as Senior Lecturer at the International school of Medicine, specializing in Pre-Clinical Education and Public Affairs of Cambridge Overseas Medical Programme.
- She became Senior Research Scientist for Biotechnology at Schlumberger Cambridge Research Centre.
- She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Biological and Chemical Science, Exeter University.
- She was invited by HRH Prince Philip to become a member of the Royal College of Teachers.
- She is a member of British Top Young Researcher at House of Commons.
- She is a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University where she works with Professor George Whitesides at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.
- She was awarded the Young Professional Award by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Arab Student Organization (MIT-ASO).
- In 2009 she was named a PopTech Social Innovation Fellow i.e. high potential young leaders with new approaches poised for transformational impact.
- She was chosen to address King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia at the National Dialogue Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
- In 2010, Hayat received the Prince Khalid Award for her innovative approach to the sciences.
Not content to change the world for the better through research, innovation and invention alone, Dr. Sindi took part in the 2005 Pedal for Peace event called "Follow the Women". Along with 250 women from 25 countries, she rode 288-km on a bicycle. The journey started in Beirut winding through Syria and Jordan before concluding at Ramallah in Palestine. The bike ride, sponsored by the UK’s Centre for High Performance Development and organized by Detta Regan, winner of the 2001 UK "Woman of Europe” award, was meant to send a message to world leaders to accelerate the peace process and stop the ongoing suffering.
With her flair and aplomb, Dr. Sindi has made her accomplishments seem so natural and simply done, yet her life has often been littered with challenges both personal and professional. Because she wears a scarf (hijab), she is nearly always mistaken for a tourist when she attends scientific conferences. She often speaks about being given a “life sentence” based on her appearance which she characterizes as: female, scarf, can’t do science, can’t get funding.
Far from allowing adversity to discourage her, Dr. Sindi often takes time out from her busy life to offer encouragement to others and to speak with students in various countries. For example, Dr. Sindi visited Coastal Studies for Girls in Freeport, Maine and encouraged the students to have faith in themselves by saying, “Always reach for the top. Dream about becoming prime minister. You might not get there, but it might be because you’ve discovered that something else is better and more interesting. Always believe that you can be the best.”
She has also often urged other Saudi women to follow her example, “You are strong; you are smart; you are intelligent, and you can also make breakthroughs,” she said. “Society and science can go hand in hand. I had a dream as a child to make a difference, and it has all happened.”
Why not hear a little about Hayat Sindi and her work from Hayat Sindi?
What is your dream, dear reader? With Dr. Sindi's example before you, why not go and make it come true? Many people hold her up as an example and then walk away convinced they could never be as great as she. They're wrong. Anyone can follow in Dr. Sindi's trailblazing footsteps. All they need is a little bit of courage. Don't we all have just a little bit of courage?
*Written by Aisha Bilal © 2011. Care to read or leave Comments?
- Names, Translations and Aliases:
- Hayat Sulaiman Sindi: حياة سليمان سندي
- Hayat Sulaiman Sindi: حياة سليمان سندي
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- Gorelick, Daniel. "
Saudi Arabian Scientist Works to Empower Women". America.gov Archive. America.gov. 24 Dec. 2008. Accessed 27 March 2011.
- "Hayat Sindi: Accessible Health". Health. Pop!Tech. 2011. Accessed 26 March 2011.
- "Hayat Sindi, PhD". dfa.org. Diagnostics for All. 2011. Accessed 6 April 2011.
- "Hayat Sindi - The Science Entrepreneur". Pop!Tech Spark. PopTech. 2010. Accessed 3 April 2011.
- "Hayat Sindi - Vice Chairman". NanoTerra. Nano-Terra Inc. 2011. Accessed 25 March 2011.
- "Hayat Sindi - Vice Chairman, Nano-Terra Inc.". Investing - Electronic Equipment, Instruments and Components. Bloomberg Buisnessweek. 2011. Accessed 24 March 2011.
- Kaman, Colleen. "Hayat Sindi Talks Science and Leadership with High School Girls". Blog. Pop!Tech. 6 Dec. 2010. Accessed 6 April 2011.
- Reidy, Chris. "MIT $100K Competition Awards its Top Prize". Business Updates. Boston.com. 15 May 2008. Accessed 26 March 2011.
- Wahab, Siraj. "Saudi Woman Pioneer to Pedal For Peace". Arab News. 16 Sept. 2005 AD (12 Sha'ban 1426 H). Accessed 2 April 2011.
- Wahab, Siraj. "Sindi Encourages Women to Pursue Sciences". Saudi Arabia. Arab News. 13 June 2010. Accessed 27 March 2011.
I really appreciat your information.To see who I'm to prove myself. Thank you again.
Muslim Women have always been achievers...on the footsteps of Our Great Ommahat Al-Muslimin and Women around Prophet Muhammad (SAWS).
Thank you Dr. Hayat. You are one of these.