BESTMEDGRAPE: Dr. Eng., Hiba N. Rajha, a success story of a Lebanese scientist and entrepreneur
Last week marked the international day of women and girls in science. Throughout history, women have had their share of creation and innovation in a world that was almost restricted to men.
Today, women have their place in every field from science to politics, military, and business... which they earned. In some countries, women succeeded to have their influence in society whereas in other countries, unfortunately, they are still fighting for their basics acquired rights.
Our interviewee is a young passionate woman from Lebanon, who made her way from a student to a scientific researcher to an entrepreneur.
No path is easy
Dr. Eng., Hiba N. Rajha, the assistant professor at the Saint-Joseph University of Beirut, USJ, admits that her path wasn’t easy, but with hard work and determination, everything is possible, she says. Her passion led her to dedicate her whole life to science, “especially that with Science, you can make a real difference and contribute in making the world a better place, and now, during this pandemic, humanity has recognized that more than ever” she adds. The most difficult part is to accept that we don’t know everything, to embrace imperfection, and to persevere to be the closest possible to it. She continues: “For example, I have studied for 13 years, to have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s a Ph.D. and a process engineering diploma because I knew that the first key to success is acquiring knowledge”.
Dr. Eng. Rajha considers herself lucky to study and work as a university instructor and researcher at the Saint-Joseph University of Beirut, where relationships are based on human rights and gender equality. And she quoted from her favorite song:
“Oh yes I am wise
But its wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman”
If I were a man…
When asked what would be different in her path if she was a man, Hiba replied:
If I were a man, I wouldn’t have been subjected to ‘mansplaining’ in the industry.
If I were a man, I wouldn’t have had to hear the comment: “Oh I see, you are more career-oriented than family-oriented”.
If I were a man, I wouldn’t have been harassed because of how I look and had to work twice as hard to show my worth.
From a passionate scientist to a young entrepreneur
On the idea of becoming an entrepreneur, Hiba explains: "I have been conducting research for 10 years now, during my Ph.D. and post-doc studies under the supervision of the dean of the Faculty of Sciences Pr Richard G. Maroun and the director of the doctoral school Pr Nicolas Louka. I have closely worked in the process engineering field to extract bioactive molecules from agri-food wastes, however, I always felt that the academic research should be valorized by finding industrial applications. Therefore, when I knew about the competition of the IP Valorization Grants Program organized by Berytech, I was encouraged to apply as a young entrepreneur in order to transform our research ideas into a successful business".
The project consists of producing and commercializing the polyphenol powder deriving from grape pomace and olive leaves, the two major agri-food byproducts in Lebanon to be used in cosmetic and food applications. This will open the door to the possibility of producing her own cosmetical and food products enriched with polyphenols, but that will happen in the next stage, as she clarifies. And she assures that they have also thought of many other innovative ideas that will be revealed when the right time comes…
Who are the targeted consumers?
Dr. Eng. Rajha explains that the product targets everyone, consumers who would like to conduct a healthy lifestyle, and all other people because they will be raising awareness towards the health beneficial effects of antioxidants’ consumption. The start will be with Lebanese and the Middle East markets, then the Mediterranean and the European market and why not expand all around the world!
A final Tip to the reader
Finally, one piece of advice from a successful woman to whom it may concern:
“In material science, resilience is the amount of energy the material can absorb and still return to its original state"... Likewise, I would say that it is the most important quality for a researcher and entrepreneur, to absorb stress and not allowing it to permanently discourage you, and to bounce back no matter how hard the stress hits you…