Born in Saudi Arabia, Hayat Sindi’s path into science may be rather untraditional for a Muslim women but it is there she has excelled and developed technologies which could improve the health of people living in the developing world. A biotechnology researcher, she has helped develop a life saving tool that is the size of a stamp and costs just a penny, which helps detect disease by analysing body fluids.
In a world where humans are doing the majority of the destruction of this planet, it’s nice to be able to point to individuals who are working to improve our existence.
The National Geographic recently announced its list of 14 activists and scientists who could change the world for the better and Hayat Sindi was on their list. They remarked that the science entrepreneur has not only been a inspirational figure for female students to science in the Middle East but also her team’s invention “could be a medical breakthrough saving millions of lives.”
The low-tech diagnostic tool which is made of paper has micro-channels with chemicals which react when the drop of blood that is placed on the paper. They reaction takes around a minute to occur and a change in colour provides the result. In isolated and rural areas of the world where such health monitoring is rare, such a device could help cheaply and safely diagnose millions of patients.
As she told the NatGeo: “For me, science is a universal language that transcends nationality, religion, and gender. It can help solve any problem our world faces.”
Hayat Sindi left her home and family in Mecca as a teen to travel to the UK to become a scientists. After working hard to learn English, she became the first Saudi woman to be accepted at Cambridge University to study in the field of biotechnology. She went on to earn her Ph.D., and became a visiting scholar at Harvard University where she and her team invented the diagnostic life-saving device .
In 2009, Hayat Sindi became the first Arab woman to win a fellowship in the American innovation network PopTech and in 2010 she received the prestigious Prince Khalid Award for her innovative approach to the sciences.
There are nature conservationists who insist that we need to protect the survival of every animal and plant not simply because biodiversity is important but because certain species could hold the key to resolving our problems. Indeed, medical and scientific discoveries have often emerged from the study of the natural world.
In a similar line of argument, it seems that there are certain individuals, who with the right encouragement and opportunities, could also provide the solution to our world’s problem. Hayat Sindi is such an individual and I hope to see more individuals shaping the world for the better emerging from the Middle East.
For more individuals changing the world for better see: