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\nJet Propulsion Laboratory
\nWhere were you on the morning of 6 August 2012? Chances are you were among the millions around the world watching the live feed of NASA’s Curiosity rover as it touched down on Mars.
\nTo say that the landing, which was seen by 50 million people in the US alone on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)’s website, was tense is an understatement; after making its 450 million km journey from Earth to Mars, the rover had to decelerate from a speed of 20,000 kmh to zero in just 15 minutes to effect a safe touchdown onto the Red Planet’s surface. It was by far the most complicated attempt to land on another planet that humans have so far attempted. For Charles Elachi, the head of JPL, the success of Curiosity marks just another step in an astonishing journey that has taken him from the Lebanese town of Zahle, via university in France, to Pasadena, where the JPL is headquartered.
\n“In a sense, it is a positive thing that reflects on the US… people all around the world look at the US as an exciting, forward-thinking nation, and as we share with all the world what we are doing, it’s not a selfish thing,” Elachi told us last year. “In the end, I usually tell people from wherever they are in the world that it’s not my rover — we’re just the team that built it. It’s yours as well.”
\nCharles Elachi is the head of the California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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\nProfessor Yacoub was born in Egypt and graduated from Cairo University Medical School in 1957, trained in London and held an assistant professorship at the University of Chicago. He is a former BHF professor of cardiothoracic surgery for over 20 years and consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Harefield Hospital from 1969-2001 and Royal Brompton Hospital from 1986-2001. Professor Yacoub established the largest heart and lung transplantation programme in the world where more than 2,500 transplant operations have been performed.
\nHe has also developed novel operations for a number of complex congenital heart anomalies. He was knighted for his services to medicine and surgery in 1991, awarded Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1998 and Fellowship of The Royal Society in 1999. A lifetime outstanding achievement award in recognition of his contribution to medicine was presented to professor Yacoub by the Secretary of State for Health in the same year.
\nDr Yacoub also established the Chain of Hope Charity which provides cardiothoracic surgical care to the developing world.
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\nUAE Genetic Diseases Association
\nEarlier this year, Dr Maryam Matar was named as one of the 20 most influential Muslim women in science. And no wonder; her list of accolades is growing longer by the day. Matar has spent most of her career combating genetic diseases — a problem that is taking a considerable toll on the local population.
\nAfter working in several public health positions, Matar launched a series of outreach initiatives, including ‘UAE Free of Thalassemia 2012’. She has also launched the UAE Down’s Syndrome Association in 2005 and the UAE Genetic Diseases Association in 2006.
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\nOmar Yaghi’s work with molecular chemistry has seen the likes of BASF beating a path to his door.
\nFrom his base at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is currently a professor of chemistry, Yaghi has been building metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that could prove crucial in helping develop green energy solutions, such as natural gas vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells and carbon capture technology.
\nThe chemist’s structures can, for example, double the amount of gas that is stored in a tank. That could be a game-changer for gas-powered cars, allowing them to go for longer between refuelling, and making gas tanks easier to design. As America weans itself off gas-guzzling cars amid a bid for energy independence, Yaghi’s work is vital. He was listed by Reuters in 2011 as the second most important chemistry researcher on the planet.
\nDr Yaghi has been building metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that could prove crucial in helping develop green energy solutions.
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\nHayat Sindi has made a habit of breaking new ground in whatever endeavour she puts her mind to.
\nThe Saudi-born medical scientist has been trailblazing since she embarked on her first quest, as an ambitious teenager speaking no English but with a passion for science, to study in the UK.
\nHer career has been marked by a succession of accolades as her research into diagnostics and biotechnology, and her inventions, have been heralded internationally.
\nThe first Saudi and female scientist to become a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for sciences, last year Sindi added to her achievements an historic selection as one of the first tranche of 30 women to be appointed to Saudi Arabia’s Consultative Assembly, or Shura Council, which is the formal advisory body to King Abdullah.
\nHayat Sindi was the first Saudi and female scientist to become a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for sciences.
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\nA PhD in financial engineering, plus a PhD in quantum mechanics — together with an IQ of 168 — make Manahel Thabet one of the brightest people in the region. Last year, she was named Genius of the Year for Asia, and was chosen to be part of the World Genius Directory. There’s no doubt that Thabet has been putting her gifts to good use; she has been given a UN award for undertaking humanitarian missions in Africa, and is a former member of Young Arab Leaders. All of this is in addition to her day job as head of SmartTips Consultants, a consultancy she founded in 2008.