Prize-winning Egypt’s Student Speaks to OnIslam

Exclusive interview with young scientist Azza Faiad
By Rasha Dewedar
Freelance Writer-Egypt

Faiad was awarded a one week placement in Culham Science Center for fusion energy in Oxford, UK. (Image credit: Rasha Dewedar).
Azza Faiad

Azza Faiad is a 16-year old Egyptian student who won a special prize in the 23rd European Union Contest for Young Scientists in September 2011, for inventing a new cheaper way for generating biofuel.

This year she was awarded a one week placement in Culham Science Center for fusion energy in Oxford, UK. This placement came as a reward for her project and to give her the opportunity to meet and interact with students and scientists there.

OnIslam.net had this interview with Faiad right after she came back from the UK in July 2012.

Can you explain your project in a few words?

My idea is about converting Poly ethylene (PE) plastic waste which is considered to be hardly degradable material into sustainable source of fuel through catalytic cracking process using a cheaper catalyst.

Why did you choose this project in particular?

I chose this project because of the energy crisis, in addition to great amounts of plastic waste nationwide that reached 1 million tons in Egypt in 2011.

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Whom do you owe your success?

I would have done nothing without the non-stopping support of my family on the personal and social level.

On the academic level I understood all specific and concrete information from my great mentor Dr. Tarek Fahmy as well as the Academic team in the Egyptian petroleum research institute specifically Prof. Mamdouh El Melawy, the head of Petroleum Refining Department.

How do you view your future and career?

I hope I can study abroad for a while and return back to implement what I have learnt here as much as I can do it perfectly, I can also pursuit my study here in Egypt.

Actually I'm conducting a new research right now in the same field of sustainable energy production and I'd complete my studies in the same field on the research level as well as considering the business side of it.

I'll never stop learning and gaining new experiences through my project because it's not just a science project it's a life experience.

Azza Faiad, prizewinner of 2011 EUCYS. (Image credit: Futuristicnews.com).

What do you think hindering inventors and scientists in Egypt? And what is the way out?

I think we as Egyptians have the potentials to innovate, but I find that the main obstacle is the lack of facilities and concrete planning for research policies, which we should focus on to develop.

What do you expect for scientific research after the Egyptian revolution?

Hopefully, things can get better and all the political issues can settle down faster in order to focus on having better research policies and plans like those in the European commission for example. I hope that scientific projects could be a way of learning in our schools but not a separate activity. We also need a cooperative non-overlapping network between educational authorities, policy makers and research institutions.

Apart from the fuel problem, what other problems you want to work on?

I'm not so much into medicine, but I really feel so sorry when I think of the life loss resulting from cancer. I wish innovative Egyptian scientists would contribute more and more to the field of cancer treatment.

How can the private sector and businessmen contribute to scientific research?

I think they can help innovators pursing their science projects whether by facilitating the work in the private sectors' labs, funding these projects or even implementing successful projects.

At this young age, how do you look at your experience in the UK and how did you benefit from it?

I was honoured to meet distinguished scientists in Culham Center for fusion Energy and visiting their great Heating system, laser labs, and power supplies.

In addition, meeting students at similar ages sharing the same passion was an added value for me as well.

What do you think hinders Egypt from using renewable energies?

I think this is attributed to policies being followed. The limitations aren’t lack of research; it's all about lack of correct and accurate decisions.

Imagine you are the minister of scientific research, what will be the first thing you will do?

The first thing I'd do is a competition between employees in every single department and sector; I believe this will be a good start on the right track.

Faiad gets inside fusion in the in-vessel training facility with Rasha Dwedar and Nourwanda Sourour. (Image credit: EFDA).
Related Links:
Muslim Scientist Awarded By UN, Ignored By India
1001 Inventions by Muslims Awarded
Farouk El-Baz
Science and Scholarship in Al-Andalus
Growth of Science & Innovation in the Muslim World
Rasha Dewedar is a freelance journalist based in Cairo, she has special interest in the Middle East, gender issues and science.

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