Mona Bakr: The Voice of Nanotechnology in Egypt


On 5 March 2017, the world lost a shining beacon of science, Dr. Mona Bakr. Always enthusiastic to share what she knew in her field with others, she worked tirelessly to achieve her dream of improving society through her scientific research and benefiting humanity as best she could. Her field of interest was nanotechnology; to have lost her is to lose who many have called “the queen of nanotechnology”. While she may no longer be with us, her legacy will surely remain as testimony to her great contribution throughout her exemplary scientific career.

From a schoolgirl’s dream to a scientist’s dream

In one of her previous interviews with us back in 2010, she told us she became interested in science through her father who was an ardent lover of all things science. She was exposed to the scientific field and the endless possibilities it provides from a tender age, since he would often bring her scientific books and magazines. While she had been aware of the importance of science since a young age, it was an article by the famed Dr. Zewail that truly sparked her passion for science, encouraging her to pursue a career in the field.

Looking at Dr. Mona Bakr’s career trajectory, one can observe that she was a motivated individual, who pursued her career with gusto. She once said in a concluding statement of one of her talks “We do not create science; we discover it’’ and we can truly see that she lived by that motto. She earned her Bachelor degree in 1991, and her Master degree in Chemistry in 1994 from Assiut University. She then went on to receive her PhD in 2002 from Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, completing her thesis under the supervision of Professor Mostafa El-Sayed. She pursued her post-doctoral at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and became staff member at the National Institute for Laser Enhanced Sciences (NILES), Cairo University, Egypt; and also the Director of Egypt Nanotechnology Center (EGNC) in the same university.

Dr. Bakr’s research focused on the synthesis and characterization of metallic, magnetic, and semiconductor nanocrystals. She also worked on their optical properties and ultrafast dynamics with the use of different laser techniques. She worked with a team on making nanomaterials that could be used for various purposes; such as in solar cell applications, biomedical imaging, and water treatment. One can see at a glance that she was interested in the diversity that nanotechnology has to offer; she was an avid researcher and has 56 publications in different international journals, such as Nano Letters and Advanced Functional Mater.

All the while, she supervised graduate students and was the Director of Nanotech Egypt; the first company in Egypt and the Arab world that manufactures different nanomaterials, and aims to create a hub for nanotechnology that can strengthen and improve Egypt’s economy. This issue was near and dear to Dr. Mona’s heart and she delved into it in an interview with the Nile Culture TV.

She said that nanotechnology has endless possibilities in its application when it comes to creating new materials and new uses for materials. She believed that they could be of great use in many industrial sectors, and realized that the future lied in implementing nanotechnology in the main industries of Egypt. She wanted nanotechnology to move out of experimental labs into practical use; however, the main impediment for that is the lack of communication between the different sectors.

She wanted to open communication channels between government bodies, scientists, and businessmen in order to create an environment where everyone could benefit and help develop the country. While Dr. Mona wished to see Egypt become one of the important hubs of nanotechnology, she knew that the journey was still long and arduous. Nevertheless, if we look at the recent developments in the field, it will become nanocrystal clear why her vision is one that should be carried out by her fellow colleagues.

Cover image source: Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center

This article was first published in print in SCIplanet, Summer 2017 Issue.

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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