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Arab-American Frontiers Home > 2012 Fellows

2012 Arab-American Frontiers Fellows

  Program Overview




The Arab-American Frontiers program aims at establishing long-term bi- or multi-national research cooperation. To further this goal, a small number of Fellowship are provided to teams of participants who intend to cooperate. The Fellowship funding can be used for short-term exchanges to conduct research at a host research institution for a period of up to a month, to develop new research ideas, curricula, etc. 
The following fellowships were completed in 2012:
Research Title: The Impact of Climate Change on Water Resources Availability in the MENA Region: Case Study of Mejerda River Basin
Visiting Fellow: Dr. Sihem Jebari, Institut National de Recherche en Génie Rural Eaux et Forêts 
                            (INRGREF), Tunisia
Host Fellow: Dr. Amato Evan, University of Virginia, USA
My visit to the University of Virginia at the Environmental Sciences Department was crucial to writing a research project proposal that will soon be submitted to for funding.  This proposal considers that in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region, the increasing scarcity of water in the context of future climate conditions is likely to have serious implications on food security.  The target of the project activities is to develop a methodology to estimate water resources availabilityconsidering the global warming impact. Tunisia is chosen as a representative country for this region; the study area will focus on the main permanent Mejerda river basin.  The project will consider long-term in-situ observations to be compared with output from the next generation climate models (CMIP5- Climate Model Inter-comparison Project for the IPCC's fifth Assessment Report).  Besides, innovative hydrological tools (MENA-HYPE version) will be run to support adaptation measures in the water sector at the Mejerda catchment scale.  These research activities will involve the University of Virginia (UVA-America), the National Research Institute for Rural Engineering Water and Forestry (INRGREF- Tunisia) and the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI).  Together these partners will bring new operational climate change analysis tools to the scientists at the above mentioned region.  They will ensure knowledge transfer related to climate change aspects and participate in capacity building in one of the emerging Arab democracies.  The main anticipated results of the project are expected to update water policy and planning by defining the main challenges and actions urgently needed at Mejerda watershed.  Finally, the findings would be considered as a contribution to unlock current water Arab development from a cycle of mismanagement which is increasing their vulnerabilities regarding global warming. 
Research Title: Climate Change and its Effects on Crop Production in Palestine
Visiting Fellow: Dr. Rezq Salima, Hebron University, Palestine
Host Fellow: Dr. Joy Ward, University of Kansas, USA
To begin understanding how olive trees will respond to climate change, we began a study to understand the response of this important crop to differences in water availability across the West Bank.  Sampled olive trees are thousands of years old and represent an important and profitable sector in Palestinian agriculture.  Thus, our collaboration is aimed at better understanding how these trees will respond to the ever-increasing impacts of climate change in the Middle East.  With respect to skill sets, I learned how to measure and interpret stable carbon isotope ratios in plants during this collaboration, and I gained a strong theoretical understanding of this technique for use in my own work.  Isotope studies are a new and interesting research field for me and I am very interested in integrating such knowledge into the research objectives of my own university more broadly, as well as my students.  It is clear that this knowledge has already enabled me to better understand the phenomenon of plant adaptation to severe drought conditions.
Research Title: Activated Carbon Derived from Oil Palm Fronds: Application to Removal of 2, 4-D and Carbofuran Pesticides
Visiting Fellow: Dr. Jassem Salman, Al Qiffaf Scientific Company, Iraq
Host Fellow: Dr. Maha Halalsheh, University of Jordan, Jordan
During my visit to the Jordan Water Company - Miyahuna I learned how to cut cost on monitoring systems for drinking water quality produced in water plants. I will employ this process at my home country since we only consider using the online monitoring systems which I believe are costly in addition to some technical complications that are carried out by the system.  I also learned how to remove odor and pollutants in water plants by using powder activated carbons in batch process.  During my visit, I learned the importance of evaluating the efficiency of the activated carbons, which I will highly recommend to be used at our labs. I got exposed to new international journals for publishing scientific articles.  Furthermore, I will pass on to my colleagues how to benefit from the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) program which offers solutions to the water crisis in linking water to other vital resources and viewing the whole water cycle together with human interventions as a basis for sustainable water management.  This exchange allowed us to share knowledge on the research subject and publication possibilities.  We discussed the draft prepared by the researcher on the research subject above and the manuscript should be ready for publication in the very near future.  In addition, a visit was organized to the biggest water treatment plant in Jordan where activated carbon is imported from China - this is the biggest importing body in Jordan for activated carbon.  Data and specifications of the imported activated carbon was collected and compared with the one produced by the researchers.
Research Title: Building Research Capacity in Medical Genetics at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of Oujda in Morocco: Identification of Genes that Cause Human Genetic Disorders in Morocco
Visiting Fellow: Dr. Mohammad Bellaoui, University Mohamed Premier, Morocco
Host Fellow: Dr. Ganeshwaran Mochida, Children’s Hospital, Boston, USA
My stay will help me lay the foundation for a long-term research program in Morocco dedicated to the betterment of its citizens’ health. Through a number of technologists at the Division of Genetics and at other laboratories (other than the host institution) I was able to observe and learn human genetic research techniques.  I had also the opportunity to discuss collaborative research projects with members of the Division of Genetics at Children's Hospital Boston. […] I was also able to visit the Clinical DNA Laboratory of Children's Hospital Boston at Waltham and the Clinical Cytogenetics Laboratory at Brigham and Women's Hospital directed by Prof. Cynthia Morton.  I was able to spend some time in these clinical laboratories in order to observe the organization and the work in a clinical laboratory which is quite different from a research laboratory.  Ms. Jennifer Partlow, Genetic Counselor and Research Coordinator at the Division of Genetics at Children's Hospital Boston, was very helpful and she assisted me with design and establishing ethical protocols for the conduct of human genetic research. I  was able to do an online training at the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative and therefore I was able to complete the course on "Biomedical human subject research training for individuals that interact with subjects".   
Research Title: Morphological and Structural Characterization of 2D/3D Semiconducting Polymers for Organic Photovoltaic Devices
Visiting Fellow: Dr. Christine Luscombe, University of Washington, USA
Host Fellow: Dr. Aram Amassian, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia
In order to develop efficient solar cells from molecular precursors, numerous factors must be taken into consideration simultaneously. First, the active layer(s) must be capable of absorbing light efficiently across a broad range of solar spectrum; second, the semiconductors must possess high charge mobilities and suitable energy levels with respect to each other; finally, the blend of semiconductors used must have the appropriate morphology to facilitate exciton dissociation, charge transport, and charge collection at opposite electrodes. During the visit, we performed studies to address the third issue: specifically, unique star-shaped semiconducting polymers that were synthesized by Luscombe were characterized using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and energy filtered transmission electron microscopy (EF-TEM) to carefully study the morphology of the star-shaped polymer in a neat film and blend films.  Work is still ongoing and we ultimately aim to obtain an improved understanding of how the structure and morphology of the polymers affect their optoelectronic properties.  The uniqueness of this collaborative work is that we conducted and will continue to conduct experiments using instrumentation that few have access to at KAUST, on materials that have been discovered at the University of Washington.
Research Title: Energy Audit of Various Treatment Alternatives for Reusing Biosolids
Visiting Fellow: Dr. Sherien Elagroudy, Ain Shams University, Egypt
Host Fellow: Dr. Jordan Peccia, Yale University, USA
Before arriving at Yale, I completed a literature review on the latest research in the field of anaerobic digestion of biosolids and came up with four possible research tracks.  I discussed these four possibilities with Dr. Peccia and we selected the track that is most promising and novel.  We decided to conduct an energy balance on the usage of microwave prior to anaerobic digestion of sludge on industrial scale.  Dr. Peccia and I have been discussing the data analysis and results on a daily basis and  I was able to come up with some results.  We agreed to continue working on a paper and will be communicating further over Skype or by email.  We also discussed the possibility of applying for a research grant through the yearly US-Egypt grant as soon as it is announced.
Research Title: Waste to Energy: Thermal Energy, Syngas, and Biofuel Production
Visiting Fellow: Dr. Isam Janajreh, Masdar Institute, UAE
Host Fellow: Dr. Sherien Elagroudy, Ain Shams University, Egypt
During this visit we discussed the recently obtained results on the gasification and energy conversion of biomass-coal co-firing.  Because gasification technology is flexible to accommodate any type of hydrocarbon feedstock, we undertook the gasification of a common strain of filamentous algae which blooms in the power plant outfall cooling water.  Working with Dr. Sherien, who possesses a deep understanding of the conversion process, is a rewarding experience.  We complement each other towards the development of tandem conversion process that accounts for both low and high temperature.  Understanding such process leads to higher conversion and lower emission than the high (or low) temperature thermochemical process, and render the process to proceed at lower energy and provide more selectivity in the product, i.e. fuel, chemical, or thermal energy.
Research Title: Quantifying the Influence of TNF Alpha Antagonization on Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma Invasiveness and 3D Matrix Remodeling
Visiting Fellow: Dr. Mehdi Bourouba. University of Sciences and Technology H. Boumediene, Algeria
Host Fellow: Dr. Muhammad Zaman, Boston University, USA
My stay at Dr. Zaman's laboratory has been very productive as we successfully analyzed and illustrated the role of TNF-α in NPC transformation and metastatic behavior.  Importantly, we found a direct link between TNF activity, nitric oxide production and MMP9 expression.  The demonstration of this relation in-vitro is important to understand the metastatic phenotype of NPC in patients.  The results obtained during my stay at Dr. Zaman’s lab should allow us to submit a research article in the near future.  Other impacts are expected as we hope to extend our research in the field of inflammation and tumor invasion analysis further; we also expect to extend our collaboration to organize mutual visits and common scientific meetings in the future.

Another two fellowships have been awarded in 2012 but the visits could not be completed:

Research Title: Graphene Nanoribbons for Energy Conversion and Optoelectronic Applications
Visiting Fellow: Dr. Bassam Alameddine, Gulf University for Science & Technology (GUST), Kuwait
Host Fellow: Dr. Christine Luscombe,University of Washington, USA
Research Title: Investigation of the Growth of Solution-Processed NiO Hole-Transporting Layers for High Performance Organic Photovoltaic Devices
Visiting Fellow:Dr. Dana Olson, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), USA
Host Fellow: Dr. Aram Amassian, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia