I was honored when my long-time mentor and friend, Bob Berg, invited me to speak at a panel on “Fostering Science & Technology in the Middle East” at this year’s prestigious BioVision conference at the beautiful Library of Alexandria. The conference is usually focused on life sciences and brings in an impressive array of professors, researchers, academics, and even Nobel Laureates.
The conference was extremely well organized and the library staff and volunteers could not be more accommodating and helpful. All attendees, participants, and speakers were given name badges with ribbons…different color ribbons. Speakers got red, students got green, volunteers and staff got yellow, etc. This automatically meant that if you were a bearer of the red ribbon closed doors were opened for you, you can claim reserved seats and you can even jump at the front of the lunch buffet line. This made me a little uncomfortable to say the least.
My talk went really well and was very well received especially by younger student attendees.
I met some amazing people from all over the world working on fascinating things. In most cases, other speakers were welcoming and inviting. Especially because I came from the technology side and didn’t have a solid science background. I found myself enjoying conversations about life and philosophy with chemists, physicists and biologists.
There was a small “but” though. In true scientific terms: I discovered something during BioVision 2012 – the Older Male Scientist Syndrome (OMSS)! Let’s examine the OMSS together:
Signs & Symptoms
Patients with OMSS are usually males in their late early 60s to early 80s. They usually suffer from arrogance, intolerance of new ideas and young people alike, heightened sense of self-importance, and a consistent pattern of self-recognition. Less specific symptoms may include: grey hair, an over usage of the words “my researchers”, and the mastering of heavy-text slides.
Most cases of OMSS are of unknown or unpredictable causes. OMSS can be associated with a lack of self awareness. Other causes of this condition include being set in your ways, a decreasing recognition of others’ opinion and value, and of course being boosted up by others.
OK, enough of the OMSS talk – I think it’s fair to say that variations of OMSS could be found in every field.
I’m still extremely grateful for having been part of BioVision 2012. Some of the people I met there were extremely inspiring.
After coming back from Cairo many people in the Bay Area were eager to hear about my trip and the things I witnessed while I was there. Arabs and activists in the community were quickly organizing events and hosting talks about the “Arab Revolutions”! I was invited to speak at the Soul Sunday School ran by the School of Unity and Liberation in Oakland. Soul Sunday Schools are open political education events, in general people who attend are young organizers who do work in grassroots organizations based in communities of color and working-class communities locally.
I was extremely honored and delighted to learn that I will be speaking alongside Khalil Bendip, Meriam Ben Salah and Mohamed Talat (see short bios here). Unfortunately, Meriam was not able to join us at the last minute.
Khalil and Mohamed both arrived a little before 4:00 p.m. and we started discussing speaker order and giving each other a bit of an introduction. Slowly as it got closer to 6:00 p.m. the tiny room in an old Downtown Oakland building started filling up with young organizers from the area and a few of my good friends.
Khalil spoke first; he told the audience stories of his childhood in Algeria: the struggle for dependency, the tragic Algerian Civil War, and his thoughts about the Arab uprisings taking place all over.
Mohamed spoke next and he went through an Egypt Revolution timeline. Discussing major events and their impacts on the psyche and will power of the people.
When it was time for me to speak – I decided to tell the attendees of the stories and on the ground interactions they may not have heard of in the media. I spoke about my mother’s worries and the neighborhood watches that were organized over night after the Egyptian Interior Ministry and police decided to leave the country unguarded. I told them about how neighborhoods organized: the men would take the graveyard shifts of watching the buildings and the streets while the women would prepare snacks for them during the night and how the women and younger men would take to the streets in the morning to protest while the older men would stay behind to guide the buildings and homes. I spoke to them of the celebrations on the street the night of Mubarak’s fall. And about how everyone to the streets the next morning with brooms and paint and started cleaning and repairing the streets – it’s a sense of unity I had never experienced or witnessed in my life.
The Q&A section of the talk was great. People had interesting questions and they were extremely involved. I was glad to be a part of this event!