How it all started...
By: Yasmine El-Shamayleh, Ph.D.
The impetus for the formation of the Society for Arab Neuroscientists (SfAN) was a series of serendipitous encounters I had with fellow Arab neuroscientists over the years and the exciting realization of what we could accomplish together.
In 2000, as an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, I met Kareem Zaghloul: an MD/PhD student who became my first Arab mentor in neuroscience. Today, he is a Principal Investigator and Staff Clinician at the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at NIH and a member of SfAN.
In 2003, as a doctoral student at New York University, I met Najib Majaj: a PhD student who became my ‘big brother’ in science and beyond. Today, he is a Research Scientist at New York University and a member of SfAN.
In 2005, at a national conference for the Network of Arab–American Professionals, I met Ahmed Mohyeldin: an MD/PhD student at Johns Hopkins University who became a key player in the creation of SfAN. Today, he is a neurosurgery resident at Ohio State University and a co-founder of SfAN.
It wasn’t really until meeting Mohyeldin in 2005 that I started wondering : how/why is it that I keep bumping into other Arab neuroscientists? And is it possible that there were still more of us out there? Together, Mohyeldin and I made plans to gather a small group of Arab neuroscientists at the next Society for Neuroscience meeting (SfN), mostly by word-of-mouth. And so for the first time, at SfN 2005, about 10 Arab neuroscientists met around a dinner table in Washington, D.C. These included: Serin Atiani, Mounya Elhilali, Soha Ashrafi, Ziad Hafed, Marwan Baliki, Najib Majaj, Ahmed Mohyeldin, and myself. Recognizing the potential in such a gathering of minds, we decided to establish a professional society that would meet at SfN every year. We held our first official meeting at SfN 2006 in Atlanta, GA, and have met at SfN every year since.
More than six years later, SfAN boasts 200+ members at all levels of academia and industry. Today, SfAN serves as a platform for professional networking between Arab neuroscientists at the international level; it allows us to connect, collaborate, support each other through mentorship, and recognize our contributions to the field of neuroscience. SfAN also aims to promote and advance science education and research in the Arab world.