x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

UAEU students back from UK stint will look for research work

Four UAE University medical students back from a month-long research scholarship in Britain say they will now look for extra-curricular research work.

From left, Reem Ali, Amira Ahmadi and Bushra Kamalboor spent a month in Britain on research scholarships, giving them hands-on experience of techniques such as heart perfusion.
From left, Reem Ali, Amira Ahmadi and Bushra Kamalboor spent a month in Britain on research scholarships, giving them hands-on experience of techniques such as heart perfusion.

AL AIN // Four UAE University medical students back from a month-long research scholarship in Britain say they will now look for extra-curricular research work.

The UAEU paid for their travel, and the British Council paid the women's living expenses during their placements at medical schools.

The chance for such hands-on research was rare. Even at UAEU, with its focus on laboratory work, it is optional for medical undergraduates.

This month Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and chancellor of UAEU, stressed the need for its undergraduates to be involved in more research.

"We must provide undergraduate students with opportunities to conduct research under the supervision of their professors," Sheikh Nahyan said.

The scholarships were originally intended to promote female education, but have recently been opened to men.

Amira Ahmadi from Al Ain researched child cardiovascular health at Bristol University.

"I wanted to better understand what lab work means," said Miss Ahmadi, a first-year student. "Everything I was studying before was based on visualising and theory, but with no hands-on techniques.

"My learning was based on getting high marks in exams but now it's different. My emphasis is now more focused on learning for life in the future and having a good career, which means acquiring skills, too."

The placement helped her learn techniques such as heart perfusion (artificially pumping blood through the heart), histology (the study of microscopic tissues) and analytical techniques. She is now hungry for more lab experience.

"One month wasn't enough," Miss Ahmadi said. "I'd like to go back and continue this and learn even more. I want more opportunities so I will be looking for other things here."

Bushra Kamalboor, 21, a fourth-year student, gained invaluable insight into the importance of research from her time at King's College London.

"It's important to have this exposure and access to experts and more up to date research and techniques," Miss Kamalboor said. "It's the only way medicine develops and updates each year."

She and classmate Reem Ali, 20, were at the college's centre for age-related diseases, focusing on neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and dementia.

Ms Ali said the laboratory work was very different to anything she had done at UAEU.

"We were using the human brain rather than brains of mice or rats, which is much more accurate for us," she said.

It should help the women with their fourth-year neuroscience course, and both say they will continue their research projects in their free time.

"These cases have been great preparation for this year," said Miss Kamalboor.

Dr Chris Howarth, head of pathology at UAEU and co-ordinator of the scholarships, said they were a good way to help students decide on their future study.

"Sometimes the experience can turn them on to a particular specialisation," Dr Howarth said. "A student might even choose to do that in the UK after they have made these contacts too."

The younger the student, the more time they have to put into practice the skills they bring back, he explained.

Richard Cotton, the UAE director at the British Council said: "The scholarship programme aims to catch researchers at an early stage in their careers, when the chance to build new international links can have real benefit to their future in research."

mswan@thenational.ae

 

* This article has been amended since it was first published to correct the spelling of Miss Amira Ahmadi and Miss Bushra Kamalboor’s names.