What is the current focus of your research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work?
The current focus of my work is the epigenetics of trauma and whether trauma can be inherited across generations. Exploring new hypotheses to explain nature around us is thrilling and exhilarating. Science is the only frontier that never ends and is continuously evolving. There is no limit to human curiosity.
What led you to become a scientist and to stem cell research?
I always wanted to be a scientist. I grew up reading Scientific American and having late night discussion with my father who was a physician/scientist himself. He encouraged me to ask questions all the time and to push beyond what is expected. Stem cell research is the next frontier. I keep abreast with what is happening in science and naturally I wanted to explore understanding and using stem cell in research and therapy. Jordan is very advanced in terms of medical services and so I knew that soon we would be using stem cell therapies, so I wanted to be able to participate to help humanity. In parallel, I realized that as scientists we have an ethical responsibility to make sure that we are upholding our moral values. This led me to spearhead the efforts to establish a law to govern stem cell research and therapy in Jordan which was the first of its kind in the region.
What is the most exciting aspect of your work?
The prospect of discovering something new…uncovering the truth gives a certain satisfaction that is like an addiction.
What guidance would you share in talking with trainees interested in pursuing your area of research?
You must love what you do as the journey is not always easy. Doing science needs patience and persistence but it always pays off and you forget all the hardship in the instant of discovery and success. You have to dream and then believe in your dream and make it into a reality.
Do you have any mentors or individuals who have inspired you in your stem cell work?
I was inspired by Shinya Yamanaka although I don’t know him personally. But what inspired me about him is his approach of not subscribing to the status quo, having the courage to ask “why not?,” challenging the predominant dogma, and believing in himself. He did his work right and was successful.
How do you spend your free time?
Reading constantly and working on a social initiative I started in 2006. The Program, called We Love Reading, encourages children to read for fun and has spread to 55 countries around the world. Our vision is changing mindsets through reading to create changemakers. You can learn more about this program in this feature in the New York Times.
What is something your peers would be surprised to learn about you?
That I wrote a book about success while I was a visiting professor at Harvard called “Five Scarves, Doing the Impossible: If We Can Reverse Cell Fate, Why Can’t We Redefine Success? It was reviewed here in Nature.
What do you most value about your membership with the ISSCR?
Being part of a community that shares the same aspirations and dreams. To discuss, share, and learn to enrich each other’s experience to ultimately help humanity.