Al-Bairaq Team Leader, Qatar University

Noora Al-Thani heads a program at Qatar University to give high-school students an opportunity to do hands-on research with university scientists and engineers. The program, known as Al Bairaq, is open to all students, not just the elite. “Any student who wants to join us is welcome,” she says. “We don’t choose the student.”

Participating students spend one to three months working in small groups on a research project, guided by mentors at the university. So far, subjects have included the science of sport, nanotechnology, polymer science, and composite materials. Noora is a biophysicist, but the program stresses interdisciplinary research that can cover any and all STEM subjects. At the end of their research, the students present their results to an audience that includes representatives from industry and the government.

Students have flourished in the program, she says. “Learning through hands-on activity is the strongest way to learn.”

Noora hopes more education looks like this by 2030. “Students are very clever, but we need to bring a new way to get them involved with us,” she says.

On the side, Noora is passionate about conservation of the wild plants of Qatar and has published an award-winning book (in both English and Arabic) on the endangered Ghaf tree.

Noora Al Thani now works as Partnerships and Resources Mobilization Officer for Silatech, which has a program called “Youth Empowerment in the Agricultural sector through Solar Energy.” This program helps farmers to utilize solar energy and subsidizes solar panels that can power water pumps. This hanessing of solar energy allows them to irrigate their farms year round.