Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Continuing Career Connections: Alumna Speaks at Prestigious Conference through Alumni Professional Development Grant

Samia Researching in the lab
I am a Fulbright Foreign Student Visiting Researcher alumna from Tunisia and a research scientist working in the field of population genomics and bioinformatics. I recently returned from a beautiful journey to California where, through funding from a Fulbright Alumni Professional Development Grant, I had the incredible opportunity to present my research project on whiteflies at the International Plant and Animal Genome meeting, PAG XXIV, in San Diego. The whitefly is a global pest causing severe damage to agricultural crops, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa. My research uses sophisticated genomic and bioinformatics tools to better understand the spread of this insect.
Samia presenting whitefly research
As part of the conference, I presented my work in front of an audience of experts in the field of genomics (the study of cell DNA). I was thrilled by the very useful and insightful comments I received from wonderful researchers such as Professor Rosemary Gillespie at the University of California Berkley, one of the world’s leading authorities in biogeography and the study of insects. Rosemary was so encouraging and supportive. It was simply delightful to meet such a role model and perfect example of a successful female scientist.
Samia Visiting the Golden Gate Bridge
Fulbright was an important part of this conference experience, not only because it helped me attend the event, but also because my Fulbright exchange (2007-2008) at the University of Manoa in Hawaii shaped my personality and allowed me to become the researcher I am today. This educational exchange was a wonderful opportunity for me to meet people from various ethnic backgrounds who spoke different languages and worked in diverse disciplines. It was such a wonderful feeling to be able to connect with different people, understand their senses of humor, celebrate their national holidays with them, and better understand how they live their lives. I could never adjust to cultures as easily, nor conduct my research as efficiently, without my Fulbright experience. To me, being a Fulbrighter is a way of life!
Samia Elfekih graduated from the Faculté des sciences de Tunis in 2010 with a PhD in Genetics and Molecular Biology. She plans to one day start her own research lab and continue to promote women’s empowerment in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by inspiring younger female generations through her positive example of hard work, dedication and persistence.