How did a Japanese scientist inspire a Saudi to become chemical engineering professor?

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Saudi doctor Ghada Mutlaq al-Mutairi said curiosity is the reason she became a professor in chemical engineering adding that her work with a Japanese scientist is what led her to pursue this major.

During a gathering for the Kuwaiti Students' Union in the United States, Mutairi said the cultural environment in which she was raised also encouraged her to pursue her education.

“I was born in the US and when I returned to Saudi Arabia I had the American citizenship. When I decided to go to college, I got a scholarship to resume my education in an American university,” Mutairi said.

Commenting on her work with the Japanese researcher who described her as “a diamond under the ashes,” Mutairi said: “The Japanese have a special place in my heart. They are a mature, committed and sophisticated society.”

Mutairi also explained how she changed her major from mathematics to chemistry.

“I switched to studying chemistry when the Japanese scientist who embraced me gave me a chance to work in his lab. He’s the one who taught me the meaning of research,” she said.

Mutairi attained a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Occidental College and she has a Masters degree in Biochemistry from the University of California. In 2005, she attained her PhD in chemical engineering. Then between 2005 and 2008, she completed her Postdoctoral Studies in chemical engineering.

She works in the University of California and she has won several awards such as the National Institute of Health director’s new innovator award.

Mutairi also said that she helped her brother Khaled al-Mutairi, a surgeon in the US, in research related to plastic surgery.

“I worked with my brother Khaled in plastic surgery research especially in the field of melting fat via inventing a new chemical material to melt extra fat in the body using gold,” she added.

Mutairi’s advice to younger generations is to read, appreciate hard work and ask questions about everything until they have answers.

“We must teach our children about the importance of thinking about everything,” she said.