Future Scientists Of The UAE

The research scholarship programme between Gulf Medical University and GEMS Education drew to a close recently. Thanks to its huge success and popularity, another programme is due to be launched in September 2019.

Launched in January 2018, the Future Scientists of the UAE programme saw GEMS Education and GEMS UniConnect partner Gulf Medical University (GMU) come together with the common aim of creating a conducive environment for innovation and scientific research. The programme was conceived in line with the strategic initiatives of the Emirates Scientists Council launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minster of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

A total of 16 GEMS Education students took part in the weekend research internship, which formally concluded on 15 June 2019. Through the programme, the young scientists had the opportunity to learn under top GMU researchers and professors, gaining hands-on experience at the institution’s world-class research facility, The Thumbay Research Institute for Precision Medicine.

Speaking during the closing ceremony, in which each student received a certificate of completion, Professor Hossam Hamdy, Chancellor of GMU, said the programme’s goal was to provide research exposure to school students, encouraging them to be inquisitive and innovative. “Usually, research is introduced very late during the learning process,” he said. “However, learning takes place through research and socialisation, and it is important to embed the learner in the environment at the earliest possible stage. Today marks the completion of the first batch of this programme. There will be subsequent batches.”

Dr. Kierstan Connors, GEMS Education’s Head of College and Career Counselling Worldwide, said the programme was a unique opportunity for high school students to get involved in hands-on research, all in the company of highly experienced faculty members. “For our students, this has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience of research, learning and curiosity. It was 16 students from GEMS who committed to the first batch, and I now get about 10 requests from students and parents per week, asking about the next one,” she said, indicating the programme’s rising popularity.

Participants in the initiative were made up of students in Grades 9 to 12 and were selected following a competitive admissions process. Each student was mentored by research scientists, professors, and clinical staff at GMU, who also encouraged the young scientists to think outside the box. Students were required to develop a research question and then select and conduct relevant experiments to answer this question, before finally interpreting and presenting their results.

A Valuable Experience

Rosemary Woolley, a student at Jumeirah College, said being part of the programme helped her to realise the importance of research in the scientific community. “It has made me excited for future discoveries in cancer research,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed my time at GMU and I hope that someday I will be able to play a role in the research community. I’m grateful for the opportunity that I’ve had and I hope to contribute constructively in future research programmes.”

Another student who took part in Future Scientists of the UAE was Ahsan Nayaz, from Our Own English High School, Sharjah – Boys, who highlighted the pace of the programme as a positive, enabling him to gain hands-on experience and exposure to the research world. He added, “Overall we had fun, interacting with each other and with the professors, and gaining new knowledge in the process. I feel proud and privileged to have been part of this programme. I will be taking the knowledge gained and putting it towards my future medical endeavours.”

Similarly, fellow participant Adithya Mathew, who studies at GEMS American Academy – Abu Dhabi, had only good things to say: “Before enrolling, I was only looking into a career in science, but the programme has given me valuable theoretical and practical knowledge that is helping me in school and will also help me in the future. My love for science and research has increased tenfold thanks to this programme. I cannot express how grateful I am for the experience.”

Jumeirah College student Varsha Bijali, meanwhile, said the programme gave her the opportunity to work alongside leading professors of biochemistry and cancer-cell biology. “This gave me the perfect opportunity to understand the field of medicine beyond the academic curriculum,” she said. “I’ll be using the knowledge I gained from this programme when I start medical university this September.”

The good news is that a second batch of Future Scientists of the UAE is very much in the works and has now been confirmed to begin in September 2019. So, if you’re a keen scientist and want to give yourself the best chance of success, there will be plenty more opportunities to learn from some of the best in the field.