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Intissar Ahdab Award for Women’s Excellence and Impact in Research

This year marks the inaugural presentation of the Intissar Ahdab Award for Women’s Excellence and Impact in Research at AUB. This commendable award was established in January 2023, courtesy of a generous donation from Trustee Hana El Samad. It is designed to honor the exemplary scholarship of female faculty members at AUB who have made significant contributions through innovative and socially impactful research or creative endeavors. The award stands as a powerful symbol of the integration of gender perspectives in teaching and research, which aligns with the objectives of our TARGETED-MPI Gender Equality Plan (GEP) at AUB. Moreover, it supports the promotion of diversity and inclusion, the generation of holistic knowledge, the advancement of gender equality, and the empowerment of underrepresented communities.
By acknowledging the importance of gender and its intersectionality, we pave the way for the creation of more equitable, inclusive, and socially responsible environments within academia and beyond. This award serves not only as recognition but as an inspiration for continued dedication towards these values.

On June 8, 2023, an inspiring ceremony took place at AUB to honor the recipients of the Intissar Ahdab Award for Women’s Excellence and Impact in Research. The esteemed awardees, Dr. Mona Fawaz, a Professor of Urban Studies and Planning from the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, and Dr. Souha Kanj Sharara, a Professor of Internal Medicine from the Faculty of Medicine, were celebrated for their exceptional contributions.

The award selection committee, chaired by Associate Provost Jocelyn DeJong and composed of representatives from all faculties and schools, conducted a rigorous and fair selection process. The committee members faced a challenging task due to the high caliber of the candidate pool, yet Dr. Fawaz and Dr. Sharara emerged as the winners due to their outstanding achievements. Their accomplishments embody the spirit of the award, further emphasizing the critical role of gender equality and women’s excellence in academic research.

During the award ceremony, AUB President Fadlo Khoury emphasized the significance of dedicating an award specifically to honor outstanding research conducted by female faculty members. He conveyed that acknowledging the accomplishments of women in academia enhances their visibility, thereby inspiring female students and early-career academics to consider pursuing research careers. President Khoury remarked, “I believe that women’s research contributions often bear a unique character compared to those of men. Women, facing distinct challenges in gaining recognition for their work, frequently devise solutions that diverge from those of their male counterparts.”
The recipients of the award, Dr. Fawaz and Dr. Kanj, graciously provided insights into their scholarly pursuits through presentations.
Dr. Fawaz delved into her research, which interlaces urban history with the pursuit of social justice within urban environments, and incorporates legal studies on informality and property. Concentrating on Beirut as a case study, she illuminated how her research has tackled the multifaceted challenges of urban planning in the context where democratic governance is lacking and the concern for city livability for the majority population is not prioritized. Additionally, her work pays particular attention to the consequences for marginalized communities, including refugees.

Dr. Kanj discussed her research, which is centered on infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance – two pivotal health challenges with global ramifications. By concentrating on Lebanon and the Arab world, and through her extensive network of research collaborations, Dr. Kanj has infused international studies with both a regional perspective and robust scientific data, contributing to the advancement of knowledge and the refinement of clinical practices.

Dr. Mona Fawaz and Dr. Souha Kanj-Sharara have distinguished themselves in the realm of research, achieving commendable feats especially considering the challenging landscape for women researchers globally, and particularly in Lebanon during years of crisis when myriad demands vied for their time and attention. Notably, Dr. Fawaz and Dr. Kanj-Sharara have succeeded in producing research that is not only academically rigorous but also socially impactful, making a significant contribution to the global compendium of knowledge.

Dr. Fawaz expressed her gratitude by saying, ““Through this award, I conclude by thanking AUB, its trustee, for creating a space where women can be recognized and appreciated, for striving for research that matters with impact in a context where, sadly, our position as women along many other groups remain that of citizens with lesser rights. Thank you for making it possible that something like this happens to me”.

Dr. Kanj articulated, ““I believe that honoring women in science is essential as it provides the younger generation with more women to look up to and hopefully lead to closing the gender gap.
The ceremony culminated in a festive reception, commemorating the achievements of the awardees.