Joined USJ: 2011
Albert Einstein famously observed that “education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Those words resonate with Ola Ghoneim, who strives to have the material she teaches be the “what remains.”
“I want my students to remember for a lifetime, not just until the next exam,” she explains, her unbridled passion for teaching unmistakable in the energy, enthusiasm, and earnestness that emanates from every word as she describes her work. “When I’m teaching, I unplug from everything else in my life. I just focus on teaching. I’m there for them – there’s nothing else on my calendar.” Ghoneim explains that level of attention is necessary to respond to the varying learning styles of the diverse students – of different ages, backgrounds, and expertise – that populate USJ’s Pharmacy program. “I employ a blend of teaching styles, because I need to match each individual’s learning style to be sure they all learn.”
Ghoneim’s interest in science became evident in high school, and she was a stellar student in her native land of Egypt. When classmates formed study groups, she invariably would take on the role of instructor, leading others to observe that she was adept at making complex material more understandable. It was her interest in science that led to a B.Sc. in Pharmaceutical Sciences and M. Sc. in Synthetic Medicinal Chemistry, earning outstanding credentials. She pursued the academic track, rather than the practice of Pharmacy – a field quite open to women in Egypt – because of her unwavering interest in research and teaching. “This is where my love was and still is.” Ghoneim describes her work in Medicinal Chemistry as “Chemistry with benefits – I use my love for organic chemistry towards developing potential medications, hoping to one day benefit patients. The most important traits I can pass on students are my passion for chemistry and love for learning.”
As one of her nation’s most accomplished students, she had the chance to further her studies in the U.S., and earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at The Scripps Research Institute in California. It was there that her passion for research into the autism spectrum told hold, as she pursued research at Scripps and teaching at University of San Diego. When Qatar University undertook to build a Pharmacy program, Ghoneim was recruited. “Starting a curriculum from scratch was like raising a child,” she recalled. The program received International Canadian accreditation, and she joyously saw the first class graduate. “It was three great years of my life,” she beams, characterized by intensified research and instruction.
The opportunity to take her breadth of experience to USJ was irresistible. Having helped develop the School’s curriculum, she has now added joint research with USJ’s Chemistry Department. Being able to pursue work in the lab and teach in blocks drives her enthusiasm - which can’t help but rub off on students. Her classroom environment is best described as “fun, interactive and challenging,” as she brings the abstract and practical together in a meaningful way. A two-year grant to fund a research collaboration between USJ and Qatar University now in hand, Ghoneim looks to achieve a novel treatment for children with autism. “I connect with my students in more than being just a professor in the classroom, but by being an advisor and sometimes a life coach who they feel comfortable coming to after class and many years after graduation,” she says.
Ph.D., University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
M.Sc., Mansoura University
B.Sc., Mansoura University