Hala shares her enthusiasm for chemistry as head of chemistry at Qatar University and president of the Qatar Chemical Society.
Hala grew up in Qatar’s capital city – Doha. As a child, she remembers a toy shop in the city which sold chemistry kits. She received one as a present and was immediately fascinated by the reactions and colour changes. From this point she wanted to know everything she could about science.
Hala studied chemistry at Qatar University and, after completing her BSc degree, she spent several years conducting research in the USA, UK and Germany. Now, back in her home country, she is head of the Chemistry and Earth Sciences Department at Qatar University and president of the Qatar Chemical Society. Hala is a professor of organic chemistry and her research focuses on the photochemistry of medicinal plants and natural compounds.
Whilst studying at university herself, Hala remembers being particularly fascinated by the way chemistry relates to so many everyday aspects of our own lives. As a lecturer, she hopes to pass this enthusiasm on to her students.
“I always try to use the relationship of a chemical to us – humans, society and the environment – while lecturing at my university”
Hala loves the everyday difficulties and demands of her job and admits that she never considered any career other than in chemistry. She describes life as a chemist as being “full of challenge” but stresses that “the reward at the end is great”.
Gulf Symposia Week
In 2013, the Royal Society of Chemistry held its first event in the Gulf – our Gulf Symposia Week. This took place in four different countries, including Qatar, and aimed to bring renowned chemists from the UK to the Gulf to speak alongside their local counterparts, in order to network and lay the foundation for future collaboration. Hala was instrumental to the success of Gulf Symposia Week and, when the event was repeated in 2014, it was hosted in Qatar again.
Women in science
Describing her mother as her role model, Hala dismisses the idea that it is more difficult for certain groups of people to work within the scientific community. She has been head of her department twice in two decades and believes this demonstrates there are no gender issues within science in Qatar. Hala also doesn’t feel that she has had to make sacrifices in her personal life to get to where she has in her career:
“I give both my personal and career life their time during the week – it’s just a matter of organising time and priorities.”
Hala’s advice to young women in her region who are hoping to have a career in the chemical sciences is to “be patient and precise, appreciate that their career is novel, and know that they can participate in improving ways of living on Earth.”
Words by Isobel Marr
Images courtesy of Hala Al-Easa
Published September 2015