Students, researchers showcase research, build international relations in eighth biomedical symposium

Students, professors, and biomedical experts discussed papers and studies on genetics, epigenetics, and microbiology − authored and carried out by Palestinian students and researchers − in the Eighth Annual Biomedical Research Symposium, held on Birzeit University’s campus on Saturday, April 13, 2019.

Organized by the Faculty of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Professions together with the Palestinian Forum for Medical Research, the symposium featured students and researchers from Palestinian universities and scientists from City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, California, who briefed students on opportunities to pursue higher education in the US and on chances to become part of the center’s cancer research team. 

In the opening session − chaired by Johnny Stiban, head of the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at Birzeit University − Vice President for Academic Affairs Henry Jaqaman praised the symposium for the networking- and research cooperation opportunities it provides for its attendees. He commended the attending students for their pursuit of knowledge, adding that he hopes to attend symposia organized by the students themselves in the future. 

In her opening remarks, Rania Abu-Hamdah, dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Professions, emphasized the symposium’s positive impact. She welcomed that it increases academic cooperation and research collaboration between Palestinian and international universities, which is especially significant at a time when scientific endeavors are carried out on a global scale. 

“Birzeit University,” Abu-Hamdah added, “encourages its students to pursue their academic interests and urges them to participate in local, regional, and international conferences.” She asserted that the university provides them with the skills and knowledge required to produce research within regional or international teams. 

Rami Aqeilan, who gave his remarks on behalf of the Palestinian Forum for Medical Research’s board of directors, said that the forum aims to achieve perfection not only in carrying out scientific research but also in communicating the results to all the relevant partners in Palestine and abroad through conferences and symposia. Thereby, he explained, these results can be translated into actual, working implementations. 

The symposium comprised five main sessions. The first, chaired by Nouar Qutob from the Arab American University in Jenin, focused on research in genetics and epigenetics; the second, chaired by Yaqoub Ashhab from the Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron, highlighted studies in cellular and molecular pathophysiology; the third session, chaired by Musa Hindiyeh from the Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem, showcased papers on microbiology and molecular genetics; and the fourth session, chaired by Zaidoun Salah from Al-Quds Bard College of Arts and Sciences at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, comprised presentations on cellular models of breast cancer. 

In addition to the main sessions, the symposium included two poster sessions that were chaired by Yara Khodour and Muna Abedrabbo, two majors in biology and biochemistry. Here, students introduced research papers and studies on a wide variety of topics relevant to the symposium’s areas of focus.

The fifth session saw the participants present their concluding remarks and recommendations. They called for more focus on basic medical and scientific research in the various Palestinian universities; for more training sessions to better prepare students to deliver talks and explain their ideas concisely and efficiently; and for the creation of a more student-centered learning environment.