SHAIMA IBRAHIM, Research Staff, National Research Center, Giza, Egypt
2013-2014 Visiting Fulbright Student, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
My passion for science started at a very young age. My father being an endocrinologist and my mother a pharmacist, I can say I was born into the field. I saw my brother and sister earning their master’s degrees in Dentistry and Cardiology and I was inspired to pursue a career in pharmacy. After graduating with honors from Cairo University’s prestigious School of Pharmacy, I accepted a job as a Research Assistant at the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority, where I dealt with the preparation of radiopharmaceuticals and quality control, before moving to the National Research Center.
My interest in patient-oriented research led me to apply for a Fulbright. I am very proud of the fact that I am now pursuing my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular, and Biochemical Pharmacology at the University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine. It was a challenge to enroll in the program because it is multidisciplinary; it requires excellent knowledge in different areas, all of which made it more challenging for me. The former Chair of the department is an Egyptian Fulbright alumna, Dr. Malak Kotb, an acclaimed scientist who embodies collaborative and interdisciplinary research, made me eager to succeed.
Having had many privileges in my country, I faced new challenges as a Fulbrighter: discovering a new culture; dealing with different people; and engaging in a new society. I arrived four weeks after my program had started and went directly from the airport to the University of Cincinnati to find that I had missed some exams and assignments. On my first day at school, a professor looked at me and said it must’ve been hard for me to take that course because it was really tough and maybe it would’ve been better for me to drop it. For the first month, I didn’t have a social security number or a home to settle in. Eventually, I got an “A” in that course and the same professor came and congratulated me on being one of the top students, “No wonder you are a Fulbrighter!” he said. His words filled me with pride and satisfaction; I felt that it was worth all my hard work.
December 12-15, 2013 mark special dates for me. That was when I participated in the 2013 Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in New Orleans, the most amazing and unforgettable experience in my life. The seminar focused on climate change and environment. More than 150 Fulbrighters came from all over the world to share their ideas and live the joy of being Fulbrighters. It was fantastic to meet so many people who spoke different languages, had different colors of complexion, diverse cultures and religions. Even with such diversity, we all shared one thing: love for the Fulbright program. Through the seminar I made many new friends from so many different countries, countries that I didn’t even know anything about before, like Papua New Guinea. While we were in New Orleans, we enjoyed Louisiana’s shrimp in an authentic dinner of Jambalya at the Musee Conti Wax Museum. We visited the Barataria Nature Preserve as well. The most memorable experience was when we worked together to renovate houses and schools that had been destroyed by hurricane Katrina. We made good memories during that time as we served the community, which made us feel as one family. Thanks to the St. Bernard project for allowing us to participate in providing these services and to put smiles on desperate faces.
Shaimaa Ibrahim renovating houses and schools destroyed by hurricane Katrina, St. Bernard Project, New Orleans, 2013
I believe that when one insists on doing something, one will certainly do it. For me, if I hadn’t held onto the dream that I would study in the U.S. one day, I wouldn’t have been able to reflect on my Fulbright experience. If I hadn’t been persistent to get an “A” instead of just passing, I may have been kicked out of the program. So if you aim high, you will always be successful. Don’t look at failures, instead, work hard, trust yourself and you will achieve the impossible.
Thanks to the Fulbright Program. The opportunity of being a Fulbrighter will always be appreciated.