American University of Beirut

PhD student Zeina Habli receives the 2022 L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science award

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The L'Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Levant Young Talents program promotes and encourages exceptional young women scientists and researchers in the Levant region (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq) for their quality of research work.

On Wednesday, November 9, 2022, Zeina Habli, a dedicated biomedical engineering​ graduate student at the Maroun Semaan Faculty of​​ Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA) was awarded for her pioneering research aiming at developing detection technologies of metastatic circulating cancer cells in blood samples. Her work aims to reduce the burdens of current cancer screening approaches and improve patients' quality of life through early cancer detection.

“I feel privileged, ecstatic, and fortunate to be selected for the Women in Science Levant Young Talents Award of 2022." Commented Zeina. “Becoming a L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Laureate and joining this women-empowering community will connect me with a network of influential and accomplished young women scientists with whom I can work closely with in the near future."

Zeina has achieved several milestones since 2018. She has received the CNRS-L/AUB co-financed Ph.D. Scholarship of 2019-2020, and has been selected as a finalist in the AUB President's Innovation Challenge of 2020 as well as in THE NEXT SOCIETY Regional Innovation Factory: From Research to Market Program (sponsored by Berytech).

Receiving this award is a big accomplishment in Zeina's doctoral journey. It is a remarkable recognition of her work and commitment. With this award, Zeina has the opportunity to spend her summer semester abroad and collaborate with a prestigious lab in the USA to attain one of her research sub-aims. She will be able to attend research training that is truly useful for her doctoral thesis, especially in disciplines she is not familiar with.

Currently, Zeina's doctoral work is channeled toward developing a “label-free electronic biosensor" using field-effect transistor technology for detecting circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in a blood sample. In addition to that, she is probing the mechanical and electrical properties of breast cancer cells at different metastatic stages using cutting-edge technologies like FluidFM and QCM-D. She aims to identify the viscoelastic behavior and adhesion profiles of breast cancer cells with varying gene expressions, in order to understand how these properties influence the underlying physiological and pathological cellular processes. Her highly interdisciplinary research is a stepping stone in proposing a minimally invasive, fast, and cost-effective point-of-care platform for cancer screening and early cancer detection.

In her closing statement, Zeina shared her advice for ambitious MSFEA students, especially women such as herself, who wish to achieve the same level of success in their fields: “As Madame Marie Curie says: We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing must be attained. I advise all young minds to pursue their dreams and never lose hope despite the turbulence we are witnessing and the limited resources we have."

Zeina then added, “For the young ladies, I just want you to know that you are capable and can accomplish anything if given the right opportunity. Believe in yourselves, or no one else will believe in us! Keep your heads up, seek all available opportunities , and always aim high. You never know, you might be the next L'Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science fellow. If I can do it, anyone else can!"

It brings us great pride to see MSFEA's graduate students thriving in their fields. MSFEA's mission has always been to address the most difficult challenges facing humanity and enable students to forge their own meaningful life paths through fostering excellence in education and research; Zeina Habli is a great example of that! 

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