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Sakina Fakhraddin From Yemen

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

“Only a life lived for others is a life worth while.”

- Albert Einstein -

I preferred to start “My Story with Physics” with the aforementioned powerful quotations of the famous physicist Albert Einstein to point out that three unchanging principles overwhelmed my life with physics. First, scientific learning, development and discovery have no end point. Second, science and religion are, as I believe and apply in my life, two faces to the same coin and not two opposite extremes as some think. Third, whatever researches conducted or discoveries reached they should not target or serve personal interests on the level of individuals or communities, but should be for the benefit of all humanity discarding any type of discrimination.

My story with physics could be rather short, but I would like to share it with you and with the whole world if I have the chance to. It could be your story as it partially mirrors a tale of a country, not only of a person.

Yemen, my homeland, is considered one of the countries in the Arab world that lately joined the establishment of institutionalized educational system. Adequate schools were available in the southern part of Yemen, leaving the northern part in utter darkness and ignorance. In 1962 some schools opened their gates for girls, and this was the beginning of education for girls in this part of Yemen. Currently, and after decades of strife and relentless work, women in Yemen can and do really contribute to the progress and welfare not only of their native soil or Arab world, but rather of humankind through science and technology. This represents a great development for women, especially if we compare the status of women in the early 1960s, when almost no females were allowed to go to school. Since that time more and more women were able to acquire education, as more schools for girls were opened.

Ten years later two universities, Sana'a and Aden, were established. However, this late founding of schools and universities had its impact on the group of women, who can be considered to be the first generation of women to acquire a high degree of education. In this short description, I introduce my story of success, determination and dedication to achieve the highest degree in a discipline previously thought to be only a specialization for men.

Consequently, I was appointed as instructor in the Faculty of Science. Immediately, I received a Fulbright scholarship from the US government for my Masters.

My career accomplishments and the rewards I obtained mirror the achievements and the increasing prominence of Yemeni women in science in general, and in physics in particular. I feel incredibly privileged to have heard so many young women at undergraduate and graduate levels, not only from physics department but also from other departments, saying that these achievements have inspired and enriched their lives. These young women are now motivated to develop their status in physics and other disciplines to present an exceptional excellence, and they have become more confident in themselves than ever before. In fact, these advancements and achievements of a Yemeni woman in physics, represent an inspiring female model to motivate the younger generation.

This is a brief memoir on how I have suffered, first at school level, and then during my academic journey. It is evident from all that I have mentioned that at each stage I encountered difficulties and obstacles, sometimes as a result of political positions, and sometimes as a result of lack of academic resources. I also tried to show how these obstacles were overcome with the help and guidance of Allah Almighty, with my determination and deep concern and eagerness to achieve the highest degree in a discipline that was previously only open to males.