The 11th Annual Gulf Education Conference& Exhibition was held in Jeddah and it was organized by the University of Business and Technology (UBT) under the title “The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Future of Education” as it was attended by their highnesses and Excellencies, and a number of intellectuals, innovators, academician, and inventors and it was covered by journalists where Laha Magazine had the opportunity to interview Dr. Eng. Basma el-Zein, who has been a role model in wisdom, giving and positive energy for her students.
Dr. Eng. Basma el-Zein is Dean of Scientific Research at the University of Business and Technology (UBT), and she has got a PhD in Nanotechnology and a MSc in Artificial Intelligence.
– What is the importance of education today for the fourth industrial revolution?
Over the past period, education in the Arab world has not fully realized its rights in light of the old industrial revolutions. Unfortunately, most of our programs are based on the first industrial revolution, therefore, today we need to update all of our programs to keep a pace with the needs of the labor market and to be in line with the goals of the fourth industrial revolution, due to the rapid change in jobs and the imminent impact of artificial intelligence and automation, including the focus on the use of technology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence because all sciences are based on them.
-Have all groups of society fallen under the banner of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including those with special needs?
There should be a harmony between all the segments of society, but we are still suffering from a weakness in this regard, and we haven’t given the Fourth Industrial Revolution its right till now, as women, children or the people with special needs haven’t been given the opportunity to participate in this revolution, and the gap between skills has become wider as the problem has not become linked to the lack of employees, but to the lack of the skillful and talented people because the practitioners of modern professions always need to acquire additional skills along with strengthening the bonds with the employers and the bases of education at universities, which today strive to attract all spectrums of society.
– What is the rate of women’s participation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Arab women have proven their excellence and success in this industrial revolution as there are Arab women to whom we should raise the hat due to their continuous and relentless work in the field of artificial intelligence and the nanotechnology.
When I was preparing for PhD and Master degrees, Arab mothers were studying with me in this field and they were working hard to serve their countries.
The Arab women have become fully aware of the goals of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the positive effects of modern technology, and they have become no longer hesitant to participate in it, but rather they have left their unique imprint in many fields, and they have been granted patents which have been praised by international magazines.
-What type of patent you was granted?
In 2015, I was granted a patent in America, and it is related to materials used in nanotechnology and it serves renewable energy applications, “solar energy”.
-What is the importance of solar energy?
If we invest this energy properly, it will be able to meet all future energy needs.
–To what extent this energy serves humanity?
Solar energy can be invested in many fields through converting it into other forms of energy, such as thermal and electrical energy, and there are relentless efforts to make the technology on which we depend today an eco-friendly technology, and at the same time to manufacture it at a cost which is lower than that of the technology which is available nowadays.
– What materials have you worked on?
We have discovered materials and worked on them to become in micro sizes in a way that has enabled us to convert the glass of buildings into solar cells, so that they will be windows and a source of solar energy that can be used at homes at the same time.
-Most Arab countries enjoy sunshine all year round, but why is all this delay in using renewable energy?
If we focus on the Gulf states in general, we find that the sunny days are much more than the days when the sun sets, but these countries were dependent on a mono-economy based on oil.
With the new approach and the supportive vision of 2030, in which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stressed the pursuit of an industry-based knowledge economy, we had to search for alternatives, including renewable energy, especially “solar energy”.
You used silicon-based technology , but you stopped using it all of a sudden, so why?
Because this type of technology is expensive, and it is subject to major problems, especially if used in the desert, where flying dust negatively affects solar panels, but with the use of nanotechnology and new technology we have been able to solve these problems.
How did you find a fundamental solution to this problem?
We have worked on the properties of the solar cell through working on the outer cover and making it able to clean itself, so that the solar panels have become able to clean themselves, and they have become no longer affected by sand, dust or rain.
– Who supports Dr. Basma in her career?
I receive a great support from my family, especially from my father who has a wide knowledge as he always pushes me to serve the Arab and Islamic nation, and I follow this principle.
My colleagues and children also support me in my career, especially my daughter, who studies space engineering in France, and keeps pace with my career.
– How do you see the development of women?
I believe in my message, and I am interested in the development of Arab and Muslim women. I am also interested in supporting my colleagues and I try to be a model for them in helping, so we work hand in hand to bring about a positive change in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
– How does Dr. Basma gives hope for her students?
I am the first female doctor to become the Dean of Scientific Research at the University of Business and Technology “UBT”, whose academic team was an exclusive domain for men.
I was a research scientist at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and before that I was a member of the teaching staff at the University of “Dar Al-Hikma”, and during my long career which has lasted for more than 20 years, I have worked with huge numbers of students, and I have been keen to encourage them, give them hope, and consolidate science in their minds, as long as they possess intelligence and love of knowledge, and my role has been no longer limited to transferring information, but I left the space open for them to continue searching, discussing and looking to develop their scientific sense and strengthen their faith in their capabilities, and push them in the way of scientific research.
Are there any obstacles hindering the students ’scientific process?
Unfortunately, there are those who stand against any brilliant idea which comes to the mind of any student, and I have not been able to explain this phenomenon. Science is honest and the professors should shoulder their responsibilities, as we must support students with all our scientific, intellectual and social strength, and we should honor the distinguished students to be able to make important scientific achievements.
For example, at this academic forum, the university honored some talented school students, on top student Maria Andijani, who was honored with two awards on the Kingdom level at the Scientific Research Olympiad, and student Tawfiq Munajed (11 years old) who won a distinguished award, and he is one of the students who are studying at the university.
– What do you aspire for as a woman living in an Arab world that suffers from various social and economic problems?
I am a woman of change. I seek to influence young men and women with all the knowledge and wisdom I possess, in order to change their way of thinking, because the new generation is frustrated in all social, economic and political aspects, and I hope that I can succeed in getting them out of the cycle of frustration through sustainable development.
Being a member of several international institutions and organizations, can you tell us about the academic, social and humanitarian role which you have played?
I have sought to spread peace and the values of tolerance and love among the countries in an increasingly complicated world, especially as a Vice-President of the Global Council for Tolerance and Peace for Academic and Scientific Affairs. This global council is concerned with spreading the values of tolerance and peace cross the world.
What does the Global Council consist of?
The Global Council for Tolerance and Peace (GCTP) consists of a number of bodies, the most important of which is the International Parliament for Tolerance and Peace (IPTP) which includes more than 65 countries and the General Assembly. Among its most important committees is the Women, Youth and Sustainable Development Committee.
I am also a distinguished member of the International Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Materials Research Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and others.
What is the effect of all this on Arab society?
The difficult circumstances and challenges which the Arab World is passing through, and the unfair competition it is witnessing, is pushing us to work hand in hand to achieve the sustainable development, and to serve the society and education, which is important for the progress through the exchange of conversations with students.
Science is not just about delivering a lecture, but rather it is an endeavor to direct students to the right path and benefit from their questions, because life needs the solidarity with everyone and to solve all of their problems in order to continue and it entails from them to think outside the box to continue in lifelong learning.
How do you deal with your students?
I deal with all of them as my children, and I like them to be the best students of knowledge and wisdom, and most of them call me “Mama” because I care so much about them and share their sorrows and joys, as they consider me their role model in life.
I always seek to educate them scientifically by asking them to read scientific journals and to read about the latest products of the technological world.
Since I teach electrical engineering, I encourage them to do research and to think about technology to discover the techniques according to which it works , and how it gives us what we want, and they communicate with me after graduation to take my advice in choosing the best job, because I am their mother who did not give birth to them.
In light of the spread of illiteracy in the Arab world, how does Dr. Basma view Arab women?
“Knowledge is the weapon of a strong woman.” This is the principle according to which my parents brought me up as the role of the family is very important in the life of the female.
I wish that every family will teach its children the love of knowledge and education and that education comes after exerting relentless efforts and after the support provided by the family.
I pursued my PhD while I was working, because I set my goals and I have sought to achieve them based on what my family has taught me, as the family plays a key role in encouraging children to excel and be successful.
– A final word to the Arab woman.
I tell Arab women to go ahead strongly and remove all the obstacles to achieve their goals.