BEIRUT: Germany’s Falling Walls Lab, an international forum for outstanding innovators and academic thinkers, has just landed in Lebanon.
After touring the world and organizing their landmark competition in more than 60 countries, Falling Walls Lab is now officially integrated in Lebanon, thanks to the joint collaboration of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS), and women empowerment platform DAWRK’N.
“In an interconnected world where networking of people, organizations, and countries decides on success and failure of projects, networking competencies are crucial,” Bahar Sayyas, director of DAAD office in Lebanon, said. “One decisive skill is communication.”
Deputy head of mission of the German embassy in Lebanon Micheal Ross spoke of the history of scientific contests in Germany. "The Falling Walls Lab was actually initiated on the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2009, and this was driven to a research sentence by the government,” he said.
Falling Walls have organized their first competition in Lebanon on Tuesday 11 June. The competition featured 16 participants and three winners.
In first place came Amani Al Outa, a soon-to-be PhD graduate in biomedical sciences. Al Outa Claims to be the first scientist to use fruit flies for speeding up the drug discovery process for leukemia patients. “Fruit flies are faster, cheaper and more abundant than the used mouse model,” said Al Outa. “You will be astonished when you discover how similar flies and humans can be when it comes to cancer.” Al Outa, who also won the Audience Award, will be traveling to the Lab Finale on 8 November, 2019 in Berlin, Germany, to compete with 99 other finalists in front of a distinguished jury. The three winners of the Lab Finale in Berlin will be awarded the “Falling Walls Young Innovator of the Year” title.
The second winner was Asma Serhan, a biomedical engineering student who is tackling the number one cause of global death: heart disease. Serhan is working on implementing a device that monitors the vital signs of the patient’s heart and connects them to a mobile application which will notify the user of any errors. Serhan will also get to travel to Germany to explore the ecosystem in a fully funded trip.
Last but not least, the third winner was Hiba Chehade, also a biochemist who is working on solving the enigma of neuropathic pain by focusing on electrically stimulating the insula of the brain. “The insula plays a key role in pain processing yet it hasn’t been thoroughly investigated as a target for neuro-stimulation of pain,” she said.
Chehade is currently working with cats’ brains. Her prize will also be a fully funded trip to Germany.
The 13 other contestants tackled various global challenges such as brain cancer, sustainable management of water resources, treating biowaste, empowerment of rural women and the limitations of the Arabic language online.
“’Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,’” one contestant told Annahar when speaking of his ambitions.
It should be noted that more than half of the participants were women, a fact which delighted the jury.
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