As a 16-year-old girl from Saudi Arabia who spoke not a word of English, Hayat Sindi arrived in London determined to pursue studies in pharmacology, a specialized area of study not offered in her home country. Driven from a young age by a desire to help the sick, Hayat pushed herself to learn English remarkably quickly after one year and also gained acceptance to Kings College where she obtained a BS in Pharmacology. She then went on to the University of Cambridge to complete her PhD in Biotechnology, making her the first female from the Middle East Gulf to do so. During her graduate studies, she invented and patented a machine called MARS (magnetic acoustic resonance sensor), which combines the effects of light and ultra-sound to detect diseases. After her studies, she began founding companies around her inventions with the aim of making science affordable and accessible. In 2006, she joined the lab of George Whitesides, at MIT, and helped found DFA, Diagnostics for All, which made history by winning the Harvard Professional Enterprise Competition and the MIT 100k Competition in the same year.
Hayat Sindi is now one of the best known medical scholars and has numerous accolades to her name. Importantly, she is also an ambitious humanitarian, focusing her efforts on raising awareness for women, particularly in the Middle East. She participated in the 2005 Pedal for Peace event called “Follow the Women,” biking 288 km from Syria to Palestine with 250 other women. Furthermore, she devotes her time to encouraging the youth of the Middle East as well as addressing the “brain drain” on science. In a 2009 PopTech talk, she gives this advice to women scientists:
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. You are strong; you are smart; you are intelligent, and you can also make breakthroughs… Society and science can go hand in hand. I had a dream as a child to make a difference, and it has all happened.
Click here to watch Hayat Sindi’s full talk!