Three winners of the Healing Hands Essay Contest who won an all-expenses paid research scholarship to the laboratories of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York excitedly shared their experiences in the United States with Dr Javaid Sheikh, Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q).

The three high school students – Alanoud Mohammed Al Aqeedi (Qatar Academy), Lulwa Al Hareth Al Khater (Vision International School), and Shaikha Mohammed Al Amri (Al Eman Independent School for Girls) – were awarded the scholarships after submitting the best essays in the annual Healing Hands essay writing competition hosted by WCM-Q. A fourth student – Jawaher Rashid Al Sulaiti (American School of Doha) – was also awarded a scholarship but was unable to travel as she was representing Qatar at another science olympiad.

Inside Dr Randi Silver's laboratory
Inside Dr Randi Silver’s laboratory

Alanoud, Lulwa and Shaikha, who each travelled with a family member in the US, spent a week in the biomedical research laboratories at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, attending lectures with faculty and visiting the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, before travelling to Cornell University in Ithaca and getting a taste of how it’s like to live inside the campus in upstate New York. This latter section of the trip gave them a broader experience of student life, allowing them to better understand the ethos of Cornell and what it means to be an undergraduate student at the institution.

According to Dr Sheikh, the scholarship programme to New York is one of his favourite programmes.

We are able to give academically brilliant high school students the opportunity to experience professional biomedical research with some of the best scientists in the world. These scholarships allow us to pique their curiosity and develop their critical thinking ability.

I have no doubt that these three talented young women will make wonderful physicians and I hope that they pursue their keen interest in medicine and science and apply to WCM-Q’s medical programme in due course.’

The three scholars worked in the laboratory of Dr Randi Silver, Associate Dean and Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine, whose work focuses on receptor mediated regulation of plasma membrane transporters; and with Dr Stefan Worgall, Professor of Paediatric Pulmonology, whose research includes studies on adenovirus-based vaccines, and macrophages and dendritic cells in cystic fibrosis.

Lulwa, who someday hopes to become a surgeon, said they learned about equipments and specialist techniques and helped with an experiment on adenovirus.  She said that the programme was amazing and she enjoyed every bit spent in the laboratories, which she finds really interesting and fun.

Ithaca was gorgeous and the campus itself was huge and very beautiful. You’d wake up in the morning and just see all this greenery. It would make you happy just seeing the campus each day.’

Alanoud, meanwhile, said the experience was mind-blowing as she realised how much attention to detail is required for research. Shaikha added that the lab work in New York was the best, as it was ‘just so interesting’.

The Healing Hands essay contest is held annually and is open to Qatari high school students interested in science. Details about next year’s competition will be announced in February. Check out this link for more information.