Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Bringing Science to Afghan Women

By Stephen Luntz

In her spare time, cancer researcher Nouria Salehi runs an Afghan restaurant as well as programs to teach science to the women of Afghanistan.

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Some scientists may feel burdened as they race to discover the cure for a disease or reveal a threat to the planet. However, few can compare with Dr Nouria Salehi, who is trying to find better ways to diagnose cancer while also changing the fortunes of perhaps the world’s most suffering nation.

Salehi grew up in an Afghanistan that was poor yet showed few signs of the troubles to come. She says she was “interested in maths and physics from an early age, and also a bit in chemistry.” At 11 she was already showing great promise in maths and, when ready for university, needed to decide between science and medicine.

While medicine was her preference, she was offered a scientific scholarship she felt she could not turn down. “I was the only woman in physics classes of maybe 15, but I was always working with the men,” Salehi says. “There were no problems, no one discouraging me. Everything was sharing; we worked in the labs together.”

After finishing her undergraduate degree, Salehi went to France where she did her Masters and PhD. While there, the Russians invaded Afghanistan and her return became impossible. “My brothers were in Australia, and they wanted to get my parents out. It was easier to bring people to Australia than France, so I moved here and was then able to bring my parents over.”

Salehi did not stop there. She opened the Afghan Gallery...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.