‘Where creative ideas of young researchers are heard and turned into action’: Biologist Henda Mahmoudi on the formation of AGYA

Dr. Henda Mahmoudi, Tunisian Biotechnologist at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture in Dubai, joined AGYA in 2013 – the year of its foundation. Since then she has taken an active part in the life of the interdisciplinary academy: Together with her fellow AGYA colleagues, she has initiated a visionary research project fostering the scientific exchange on crop genomics between Arab countries and Germany. Currently, she is one of six members of AGYA’s Steering Committee, which coordinates the AGYA activities carried out by its members.

A member from the very beginning: Henda Mahmoudi was one of the first researchers who joined the Arab-German Young Academy of Science and Humanities (AGYA) in 2013. ‘AGYA has become a source of inspiration for me and a think tank. Here, I can contribute my own opinions’, summarizes Mahmoudi her experience she made during her last five years of her membership. ‘At AGYA we can bring in our own ideas and turn them into action’. The implementation of the academy is designed by the members themselves in a bottom-up-approach: They meet twice a year in a general assembly where they democratically decide on the organizational structures of AGYA as well as their next research topics and projects. In different task forces members administer the activities of the academy and decide on its framework: ‘We have task forces on the constitution of AGYA, the building of the future alumni network or on the selection of new members. This means that we can really shape the future development of the academy’, states Mahmoudi.

In 2017, Henda Mahmoudi was elected member of the AGYA Steering Committee. ‘As AGYA member you should be able to dedicate a fair amount of your time to activities of the academy’, says Henda Mahmoudi. As steering committee member she regularly represents AGYA at international conferences and meets with high-ranking academic partners to expand the academic network of AGYA. ‘Through this international scientific network and our collaborative research projects, we foster the academic cooperation between Germany and the Arab world as well as between the different Arab countries’, she says.

‘Being member of AGYA means being part of a vibrant research community, where innovative ideas meet and new potentials are unleashed’, she further explains. Mahmoudi has realized major research projects with fellow AGYA members in the fields of education, food security and ethics of biotechnology. With her colleague Salma Balazadeh, for example, she initiated and conducted a scientific exchange program to strengthen the collaboration between Arab countries and Germany in the area of crop genomics. Currently she is organizing the conference ‘Impact of education on employment: Cases from Germany and Arab countries’ together with the AGYA Working Group ‘Arab and German Education’ that will be held in Tunis in May.

This fall her five-year-membership will end. However, she knows for sure that she will stay in touch with her fellow colleagues, not only because AGYA provides its former members a life-long alumni network, but also because the academy has, in a way, become an important part of her life: ‘We may differ in culture, language and thought, but, we all are members of a big family – AGYA’.


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