Grad Moms: Meet Arwa

EDUCATION: M.D., Hashemite University; Currently a Ph.D. candidate in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at SBU

CURRENT RESEARCH: The Role of Canonical Wnt Signaling and Sox2 in Maintenance and Fate Determination of Neuromesodermal Progenitors in the Zebrafish Tailbud.

What got you interested in your field? Is there a story involved?

During my medical education, I wanted to choose a field in medicine that will provide constant improvement of lives worldwide. Then after I finished my M.D. and started working at King Hussein Cancer Center, in Jordan, my patients were taking multiple medications and having many medical procedures but we were unable to cure many of them or to provide a better life. Which made me realize the importance of research in medicine, and motivated me to have a better understanding of the molecular basis of the diseases and how our body is developed.

What do you think needs to happen for there to be more women in science?

Having more support for them to have family and kids. Pursuing a career in science is a long path where you need to work a lot and not being paid enough to support your family, especially affording a daycare, is difficult. This is especially important for women, as most women in science will be doing their Ph.D. and/or post-doc while they are 25 -35 years old, which is the same age many women like to start a family and have kids.

Has becoming a mother changed your work experiences or how you feel about your work/academia?

It makes me consider the time that I have every day and calculate very carefully how much time each step needs because at the end of the day I have to leave the lab at 5:10 no matter what I am doing to pick up my son from the daycare. On the other hand, it makes me feel good when I accomplish something in my work while taking care of my kiddo at the same time.

What university or community resources have you used during pregnancy and after?

I was 18 weeks pregnant when I joined the program, I talked to the program director and to the associate program director and they were very supportive. I had the choice to postpone some required classes if I wanted to and to postpone my 2nd lab rotation as it was supposed to be during the time that I had my son.

After having the baby. The graduate program administrators helped me to find a private place for breast pumping.

How has the COVID quarantine affected your daily work towards your dissertation?

 I can’t go to the lab these days so all my experiments are being postponed.  Also, my kid needs a lot of love, attention, and entertainment during this hard time which makes it challenging to have time to read and work.

How do you think that society can be more supportive and less discriminatory of mothers and would be mothers in the workplace?

Society shouldn’t be judgmental of pregnant women. During my pregnancy I had a lot of worries, so you can imagine how a pregnant woman feels when someone gives her harsh comments. It was very painful when one day someone told me “have you considered abortion”!! There are no words that can express what hearing this made me feel. Fortunately, there are a lot of supportive people in my life. I can’t forget my colleague’s noble act when she helped me to tie my shoe when I couldn’t reach my feet to do so.

I’m happy I have a functioning support system, namely my husband and my friends, Gabby Moody and Caitlyn Cardetti.  

Author: sbugwise

We are the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering group at Stony Brook University and we are dedicated to supporting women in STEM fields.

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