Interview With Dr. Saaussan Madi

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“If anybody discourages you, you can neglect them. Don’t stick next to people who pull you down. There is always someone who can encourage you.”

Today, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Saaussan Madi, an applications scientist for Bruker Corporation! She is an active biomedical engineer who has worked on a number of different STEM-related projects.

What was your first memorable experience with the sciences?

[In middle school] Reading about insects that were preserved in amber- [I] thought that we should preserve humans that way.

Did someone inspire you to pursue a career in STEM? If so, tell us your story.

Neither of my parents went to college. One aunt [who was] “out of her league” went to college. My parents were very open-minded. All five of my sisters went to college. I went to the University of Kuwait and majored in applied physics.

Why did you choose to major in applied physics?

My grades were high, but I did not qualify for engineering. We had a standardized test in twelfth grade that covered everything, and we had to compete against everyone in the country (Lebanon).

Only 300 Kuwaitis qualified for admission, so it was even more competitive.

I was admitted to the college of sciences, and I wanted to be unique, so I chose to major in physics. If I could do it all over again, I’d be a doctor. It’s the fastest and most rewarding way to serve people.

I did my masters in Kuwait, and then moved to the US. It was very difficult to get into a program for physics, but the biomedical engineering program accepted people from multiple disciplines, so I did my doctorate in biomedical engineering.

What is it about STEM that most excites you?

The unknown.

What is the most interesting STEM-based project that you have worked on? Why?

MRI research. I enjoy constantly meeting people, and being exposed to different schools and companies through my work. It opens my eyes [to different things].

I am currently working on scanning lung tumors in mice to see how early we can detect tumors.

If you could solve any problem that your community, state, or even the world is currently afflicted with, what would it be? Why?

It’s actually the obstacles that we put in place. Single thinking doesn’t work- we need groups [to solve problems].

Cancer, immunotherapy: [I think that we need to] focus our resources and thoughts. Group collaboration is very important. The “individualistic” approach is not useful.

As a woman in STEM, what obstacles have you had to overcome in order to be successful?

It’s a bit tough, because I did not grow up here. I have trouble because I am culturally and linguistically different [from the people around me]. Nothing is stopping women from America from being successful, in most positions. Of course, it is tougher in managerial positions. It is getting easier if you go into medicine or government. [However, there are] not a lot of women in the pharmaceutical industry.

How would you define success?

Being happy and helping others to do the same.

What advice do you have for young women who are “up-and-coming” in the world of STEM?

If anybody discourages you, you can neglect them. Don’t stick next to people who pull you down. There is always someone who can encourage you.

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