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University of Balamand > News > Archive > A Second PhD in Chemistry

UoB Awards a Second PhD in Chemistry

Mira Skaf has become the second student to be awarded a doctorate degree in Chemistry from the University of Balamand (UoB), in a co-tutorship agreement with France’s Université du Littoral-Côte d’Opale (ULCO).

Two co-supervisors oversaw Dr. Skaf’s dissertation, Associate Professor Samer Aouad from UOB and Professor Antoine Aboukaïs from ULCO. Assistant Professor at the Lebanese University Aline Ghanem acted as examiner. The reviewers were Professor BecharaTaouk, director of the Laboratoire de Securité des ProcédésChimiques in Rouen, France, and Professor Madona Labaki from the Lebanese University. Professor Edmond AbiAad, Vice President at ULCO, acted as president of the jury.

Dr. Skaf’s degree required her to spend six months a year in each university’s laboratory, over a period of three years.According to Dr. Jihad Attieh, dean of the Faculty of Sciences, both institutions contributed equally to the experimental and intellectual work, and complementary techniques and equipment were used in both labs,at ULCO and UoB.

A native of Zahle, Dr. Skaf, 26, graduated from the Lebanese University with a BS in Chemistry and an MS in Environmental Sciences. It was during a training spell in Dunkerque that she met Dr. Aouad, who encouraged her to pursue her PhD at the University of Balamand.

“This is the second PhD we produce at the Faculty of Sciences,” says Dr. Attieh. “Our faculty has just started the process of offering PhD degrees in partnership with western universities.”

Dr. Attieh is very satisfied with the process and its results. “First of all, I am satisfied with the quality of our students. We make no compromises, and we are approaching this very competitively. And because we are just starting this program, we cannot start it wrong.”

Currently, the Faculty of Sciences has students pursuing doctorate degrees in Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Environmental Sciences.

Dr. Skaf’s work was financed through a joint scholarship from the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie and the Lebanese National Council for Scientific Research. Some of her findings are already published in international journals and other results are being considered for publication in the Chemical Communications Journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Dr. Attieh points to the quality and quantity of publications that are produced by the doctorate candidates as an attestation to the quality of the degree offered.

The main finding in the research work conducted by Mira Skaf, explains her supervisor, Dr. Aouad, consisted in the observation of the two isotopes of silver in their ionic form, using what is known as the electron paramagnetic resonance technique (EPR). “This finding will help in understanding how silver-based catalysts work on the atomic level in remediation reactions.”

“The first stage of the research started three years ago, where we tried to develop catalysts containing gold, silver, or copper, trying to find an environmental application for these catalysts, using them for air pollution remediation”, says Dr. Aouad.

“We began trying to test those three types of catalysts and one year later, through the first results, we decided that we will drop gold and copper and focus on silver, because of the originality of our finding.”

Dr.Skaf describes her experience at Balamand in very positive terms, saying she was specially assisted by the University’s well-equipped labs. Her only complaint, she says with a smile, was the commute from Fanar, where she resides. She will be now applying for a post-doctoral research position in Europe, and adds that she would love to come back, eventually, and teach at Balamand, “if the opportunity arises”.

Congratulations to both her and the Faculty of Sciences. ​​​​​​​
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