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Interview with Hala Zein-Sabatto, Biomedical Sciences

April 18, 2017 by Jeff Hirschy, Communications Director.

Thank you for agreeing to answer these questions for the Birmingham March for Science. The answers you will provide will be posted on various social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to show how science is active in the everyday lives of people in Birmingham and Alabama. If you have any additional answers, questions or comments please contact Jeff Hirschy.

What is your name? Where are you currently employed/been employed in the past?

My name is Hala Zein-Sabatto. I am a graduate student in the Graduate Biomedical Sciences at UAB.
How does/did your work interact with science?
As a graduate student in Biomedical Sciences, I interact with science every day. Science is pretty much all I do! I have to design and conduct scientific experiments, collect data, and make sense of the results. I work in a research lab with C. elegans, tiny transparent roundworms. Using this roundworm as my model, I study how a protein gets cut up, travels across the microscopic world, to function in another part of the worm. What I find fascinating is that any discovery I make in this tiny creature can then be applied to us humans at some level.
How did you become interested in science? Did it become something that you “wanted to do when you grew up” or did you take a longer way around to get there?
I fell in love with science at a young age. I was a curious kid and one that loved to work with my hands. I grew up watching Bill Nye the Science Guy and being glued to the television anytime a science experiment segment was on. My parents were very supportive of my passion for experimentation so long as I did not put myself, others, or the house in danger. I remember one of the first “experiments” I tried at home. I had mixed glue, soap, and water thinking I was doing “science”. I hid my concoction in my desk for safe keeping, but forgot it there for weeks. When I finally rediscovered my potion, it had dried up into some slimy goo. I remember being overcome with joy thinking I had stumbled upon the coolest discovery in the world. I was probably seven or eight.
In school, I loved science class, and looked forward to the science fair each year. I remember vividly learning about genetics in middle school. It was then that I decided that was what I wanted to study. Since then, I have been pursuing my dream of opening up my own lab one day.
What educational advice would you give students and parents in today’s world in regards to science?
To any student- don’t give up on science. If taught correctly, it is one of the coolest things you will learn in school. There is more to the world than what our eyes can see, and answers to questions you may have about life can be found through science in the oddest places. It can be frustrating to understand, even at my age, but don’t give up.
To the parents- figure out what your child enjoys and support them in that. Everyone is born a scientist, but not everyone’s curiosity is nurtured.
What are your goals for science education and advocacy in today’s world?
I think awareness about the difference between science and science fiction is very important. Lots of people’s negative views on scientific research are based on false accusations or imagination. These views then have real world consequences on scientific advancements. Scientists are not out there to make the world a terrible place.
If you could invent one thing, or discover one thing, what would it be and why?
I think we have many great inventions in the world, and it is great that things are being discovered every day! But sometimes we can get too carried away with the latest discoveries and inventions that we lose sight of basic principles. If there is one message I wish to advocate for through science, it is that we must really humble ourselves. Looking into a microscope and seeing another world gives you a new perspective on life. We are only one of many living things on this planet. In the greater scheme of things, our wants are insignificant. As arguably the most powerful living force on this planet, it is our duty, I think, to make sure everything else on this planet is treated with respect (including each other). If we can all get to that state of mind, then I think we, as humanity, would achieve the greatest advancement in history.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Nope 😁

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