We don’t get many material scientists, so big hello to Jad Mahmoud Halabi (He/him)! Jad is originally from Lebanon and is currently working on his Ph.D. in chemistry at New York University Abu Dhabi!
What kind of scientist are you?
I am a materials scientist. I did my undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and I am currently doing my PhD in Chemistry. Confusing, I know. Essentially, I am fascinated with materials — particularly at scales invisible to the naked eye because that’s where things become fun.
What made you want to become a scientist?
I honestly don’t remember an “aha!” moment when I realized that I wanted to become a scientist. I am a scientist today just like I was a scientist when I was 8 years old. As a kid, I lived in the mountains of Lebanon and spent most of my time outside poking at nature and trying to understand how it works. I think that helped me develop a curious mind that is fascinated by how far we have come in creating materials inspired by nature and manipulated to fit our needs.
“As a kid, I lived in the mountains of Lebanon and spent most of my time outside poking at nature and trying to understand how it works.”Jad Mahmoud Halabi
What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
So this is the part where I get to brag, cool. I think what makes me a #UniqueScientist are the stories that are unique to me and my experience. I was born and raised in a village in Lebanon called Barouk, a very isolated and homogenous town with a dominating Druze (religious minority) population. Stepping out of the comfort of that community to understand the world and its diversity is an experience that drives my quest to make science more inclusive.
The exposure I have had so far would have sounded impossible to me and a lot of my friends at the age of 15 because there were very few precedents. That encourages me to share my story as an underprivileged person of color and how I have learned to voice my opinions while still being the minority in the room.
“Fortunately, we don’t need a miracle, we just need to care.”Jad Mahmoud Halabi
What’s something cool you do outside of work?
If I am not at work I am definitely having fun. I travel a lot and I make a point to see family and friends wherever they are in the world. But I also have fun with side projects that throw me in territories I am completely unfamiliar with. My most recent project which I am very proud of is Glimpses — an exhibition that showcases science as art and connects scientists, artists, and writers to perfect the communication of the scientific method and inspire more cool science! I really want to elevate it into a fully realized and well put together interactive space that encourages the interplay between science and art and promotes the creation and understanding of both.
If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
If the science genie popped out of a bottle and let me have my way with science, I would first and foremost change science communication (Genie: *sighs*). Whether it is putting science in words understandable by a general audience or make it equally accessible to everyone, science needs to be more inclusive. It is time we make science something that everyone can get excited about. It is time to tell stories about science, showcase it as art pieces, and perform it on stage. It is time we humanize science and make it relatable and easy to engage in, influence, and understand. Fortunately, we don’t need a miracle, we just need to care.
“Stepping out of the comfort of that community to understand the world and its diversity is an experience that drives my quest to make science more inclusive.”Jad Mahmoud Halabi
Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
My dad always repeated to me that I should listen to people because there is always something to be learned in every story. There is not one person that inspired my journey. It is my mother and my sisters and all the other incredibly ambitious women in my life who have taught me resilience. It is my incredible teachers and mentors who genuinely invested in my growth personally and professionally. It is my dad who changed my philosophy of life and in that he made sure my journey is blessed and inspired.
Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I passed my qualification exams and got great feedback! It is a great boost of moral and given that I don’t have a chemistry background, I feel like I have proved myself in the field.