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University of Balamand > News > Archive > UoB awards its first PhD in Chemistry

UoB awards its first PhD in Chemistry

Homsi Murrsmall.jpg

Doris Homsi el Murr is the first student to be awarded a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Balamand, and she did it with a dissertation whose title is a little intimidating to the non specialist. Here it is: “Steam Reforming of Methane and Ethanol over CoxMg6-xAl2, Ru/CoxMg6-xAl2 and Cu/CoxMg6-xAl2 Catalysts.” 

Dr. Jihad Attieh, Dean of the School of Sciences, explains: “Her dissertation deals with a currently important issue, which is the substitution of fossil fuel usage with a cleaner type of energy.”  The research work undertaken by Ms. Murr, he continues, consisted of developing catalytic systems that will make hydrogen production from the two bio-molecules economically feasible.  
A young 25-year old, Ms. Murr is a native of Kfar Aaka in Koura, and a graduate of Balamand University with both a B.S. and an M.S. in Chemistry. 

“When I did the M.S. I had to travel to France, to Dunkirk, to work in the laboratories of the Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale  (ULCO) for three months. They got to know me then, and this made it easier for me to access their labs for my Ph.D. research.” 

Her work was financed with a joint PhD scholarship from the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie and the Lebanese Council of Scientific Research. The scholarship stipulated that a significant part of her research should be done in Lebanon. Six international journal articles resulted from Ms. Murr’s work, with three already published and the other three submitted for publication.

When she did her M.S., says Ms. Murr, the University of Balamand laboratories were very modest and she had no choice but to travel abroad for her research. Things now have changed. “Balamand brought in a lot of new equipment, and I was able to do a great part of my research here.” According to Dr. Attieh, both institutions contributed equally to the experimental and intellectual work. 

The University of Balamand offers its PhD program through a co-tutorship agreement with ULCO. Ms. Murr alternated her work between the two institutions, spending six months per year in each laboratory, over a period of three years. The experience, she says, was cumbersome because she had to carry her samples back and forth, and arrange for accommodation and apply for a visa each time. However, from a professional point of view, she says, it was totally worth it. “I learned a lot, and developed a much keener scientific spirit.”

Two co-supervisors oversaw the dissertation, Dr. Samer Aouad, an assistant professor of Chemistry at Balamand, and Professor Edmond Abi Aad from ULCO. Professor Antoine Aboukais from ULCO was one of the examiners and the president of the jury.  Assistant Professor Cedric Gennequin, also from ULCO, was the other examiner. 

The reviewers were Professor Bechara Taouk, director of the Laboratoire de Securité des Procédés Chimiques in Rouen, France, and Professor Madona Labaki from the Lebanese University.

Says Dr. Attieh, “The brilliant success of this first experience is a tribute to the commitment of our University to excellence, the professionalism of our professors, and to the quality of our students.”
Ms. Murr says she will now be applying for a teaching and research position in Lebanon, as she would prefer to stay in her own country. This, she says with a smile, is also what her architect husband prefers. “He believes it’s time we both settle in one place.”

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