American Univesity of Beirut

AUB scientists entrusted by the World Economic Forum to impact global policy

Safa Jafari Safa,, Communications Office

Two AUB professors, Lamis Jomaa and Pierre Karam, were selected by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as two members of the WEF Young Scientists out of only three from the Arab world. Invited to participate at the WEF Annual Meeting of the New Champions, held this year in Tianjin, China, the two professors shared their research and recommendations with the world’s top scientists and global policymakers.

​Dr. Lamis Jomaa is an assistant professor at the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences within the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS) and co-director of the Refugee Health Program of the Global Health Institute at AUB. Dr. Pierre Karam is an assistant professor of chemistry at AUB and currently a visiting professor at the Harvard Medical School. 

The two professors were selected within a global group of around 40 outstanding scientists under the age of 40 for not only their contributions in advancing the frontiers of science but also their passion for integrating scientific knowledge into society for the public good. The membership offers opportunities to network within prominent meetings with hundreds of representatives from governments, NGOs, industry, civil society, and other outstanding researchers to address issues of global concern.

​Research for the public good

In her research, Lamis Jomaa is interested in advancing the dialogue on the complex issue of food and nutrition insecurity, a global concern particularly for low to middle-income countries in conflict-affected settings and to vulnerable population groups, including displaced individuals and refugees. Through a multi-disciplinary and a multi-sectorial approach, she examines the linkages between food insecurity, migration, nutrition, and human health outcomes to influence community-based interventions that can serve as feasible, acceptable, impactful, and sustainable solution entry points. 

Jomaa also examines the effectiveness and sustainability of community-based initiatives and interventions mobilized to alleviate food and nutrition insecurity among vulnerable groups. Examples include studies that focus on school-based nutrition interventions in informal schools within refugee camps and community kitchens as promising programs to improve the food security and livelihoods of participants while also increasing social cohesion and integration of refugees within host communities in a protracted crisis content.

Pierre Karam engages in fundamental studies to drive the applied research arm. One project is for developing hand-held point-of-care medical devices that would enable physicians and patients to diagnose diseases early on to increase survival rates. Another project aims at creating a portable device, integrating biosensors based in smartphones, to detect and control waterborne lethal microorganisms in real time and in resource-limited settings.

Karam’s research enables technologies to monitor life threatening diseases and environmental problems. He is also actively involved in science outreach activities that take science from the lab to the general public. As co-founder of an NGO (3elmeh 3elmak), he works to spread science awareness among underprivileged societies and worked with AUB’s Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service to develop chemistry laboratories for Syrian refugees. His more recent work with internationally renowned artist, Vartan Avakian, to merge science and art has been exhibited internationally and locally. 

A forum to foster change

Heading off to the Annual Meeting of New Champions, the two young professors were on a mission: to make full use of three intensive days that offered endless opportunities. 

“It was a unique experience, given the diverse background of the attendees,” said Karam. “At the WEF, we had the brightest minds from policymakers, to entrepreneurs, politicians, academics, and more, all debating problems that all humanity is currently facing, from the ethics of precision medicine to its regulation in clinical trials, to the impact and regulation of the fourth industrial revolution with the advance of the artificial intelligence. The highlight of my participation was interacting with like-minded people who are not only passionate about science but also about changing the world and having a positive impact on it.” 

The annual meeting introduced cutting-edge technologies and brought representatives of various disciplines and continents who are committed to promoting a healthier, more sustainable, inclusive, and equitable future. “We met and networked with an outstanding group of young scientists and we engaged in interactive dialogue with various key stakeholders. This dialogue can help identify what evidence-based strategies and solutions we can mobilize, how science can help us learn what solutions are feasible and effective, and how to scale-up some of these interventions and strategies,” said Jomaa.

Jomaa and Karam gave talks and presented their research in sessions at the annual meeting devoted to managing climate migration and raising science literacy. The annual meeting was also attended by AUB President Fadlo Khuri who met with the two professors and called them “AUB’s star Young Science Champions.” 

“We were impacting not only policy-making, we were shaping how science is being done at an international level. We were changing how we perceive the role of scientists within the academic setup to reach out for society,” said Karam.

“Research allows us the freedom to think individually and work collectively to discover creative solutions that we once thought were unreachable,” said Jomaa. “Through research we always want to help derive solutions, and these solutions have to be sustainable, engaging the communities we work for, and we ultimately want science to have a direct impact on human lives, and this happens through policy. We were where integral, multi-regional solutions are disseminated on a large scale, and where programs, policies, and laws get tailored on a global scale.”
Both professors gave credit to their faculties and AUB for nominating them and spoke of the visibility AUB, and Lebanon through it, received at this high level forum.  They expressed hope for further growth of AUB’s cutting-edge research and impactful engagement by faculty members, with their pioneering work, and by AUB’s “excellent students with excellent ideas.”

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