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[DOHA] The Qatar Foundation has honoured 15 research projects at its second Annual Research Forum for excellence in pioneering innovative scientific research last month (23 November).

Ten students and five professional researchers were chosen from the fields of biomedicine, energy, environment, computing science, and arts, social sciences, humanities and Islamic studies. They were assessed on the quality and relevance of their research to the Middle East region's social and economic challenges.

One of the winners was Sara Abdul Majid, a research specialist at Weill Cornell Medical College, Qatar, who was awarded in the environment category for her research into whether the synergy between moisture retention and microbial growth beneath the surface of sand dunes could be exploited to stop their erosion.

The researchers received a monetary grant of US$100,000 to continue their work, while the students were awarded academic grants of US$5,000 each.

"We were particularly impressed with the students' research this year," said Abdelali Haoudi, vice president for research at the Qatar Foundation.

"The research awards will foster [a] culture of science in Qatar," Haoudi said, adding that the forum is the beginning of a scientific endeavor that researchers should look forward to.

Abdul Majid told SciDev.Net that her award will provide a huge support for her team to continue studying the ecology of the dune "as an addition to, and in relation with, our microbial research".

Mohammad Fathy Saoud, president of the Qatar Foundation, said: "Qatar's research initiatives will lead the country to becoming a focal point of excellence in creating knowledge [within the next decade]," adding that the state's education city will be the foundation's starting point.

The winning projects were selected from 280 abstracts selected for presentation at the forum, and judged by a scientific panel composed of Nobel laureates and international experts in the relevant disciplines.

The forum brought together 1,500 experts, renowned scientists and young scientists from around the world, and focused on the globalization and democratisation of research.

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