Dr. Ahmed Samir Alfaar
How did you get into your field and what is your research story?
My cousins had a home library full with science fiction stories that encouraged me to read more about science, my mother was a high school mathematics teacher that used to build models for teaching, I started to read early in biology and by the end of high school I decided to be a physician that practices medicine and does research. I entered medical school, finding no chances for practicing research for students, I decided to practice programming and by the end of medical school I decided to specialize in Ophthalmology and medical/biomedical informatics. I was called to participate in founding the research department at Children’s Cancer Hospital, Egypt in 2008. The team we built created a great environment to learn more about clinical and biomedical research, so I specialized in ophthalmic oncology research. We have gained knowledge together in many aspects and identified the areas that need development in ourselves. After three years, I have been assigned as a head of the research education unit. I have designed and organized multiple training programs for students, early graduates and hospital staff training on clinical research. After finishing my diploma of informatics, Master of science in ophthalmology and Master science of Advanced oncology, I decided to pursue my PhD in molecular medicine and integrated my informatics knowledge in that. Due to the delay in starting my PhD, I have completed another doctorate degree for physicians (Dr. med.) and now I am conducting a second doctorate degree (MD/PhD in Neuroscience) at Charité Universtätsmedizin – Berlin and Humboldt University International Graduate School of Neuroscience. My current research focuses on the underlying mechanisms of Retinal degenerative diseases beside many other topics.
Where do you do your research? What kind of environment suits you?
I have found that the best place for production is the garden and on the train. However, I lack power supply in the garden, my laptop does not last for very long disconnected and I do not travel that often to allow myself to work on trains, so I find myself obliged to accept working at my desk.
The best environment for research, for me, is open space where I work with students, colleagues and other physicians, sharing knowledge freely, teaching and discussing clinical and biological dilemmas without limits or sensitivities. In any place I plan to work I install a big white board for describing, modelling, sharing and breeding ideas, sometimes, over years.
How long have you been using Mendeley?
Over 10 years, since its first beta versions.
What were you using prior to Mendeley and how does Mendeley influence your research?
Before Mendeley I was using Zotero. Zotero was a great move in the field of citation management after classic ones like Endnote. However, Mendeley represented the first user-oriented, user-friendly, and of course free, software. Its learning curve was extremely steep. Before that, researchers required longer time to learn the software, build their own library, and cite within the documents. Mendeley accelerated my speed of organization, annotation and writing and submission of manuscripts. These findings were noticed also by my students and colleagues whom I taught Mendeley. Moreover, it allowed hundreds of my students to collaborate effectively on publications and scientific documents over the last 10 years. Such web 2.0 features were unique in Mendeley.
Why did you decide to become an Advisor and how are you involved with the program?
I was teaching Mendeley before being an Advisor. Being a Mendeley Advisor means I am updated about feature-releases early and supported with teaching materials. Moreover, it allowed me to be recognized by those who want to learn about the software. A more valuable reason was the storage space given to Advisors. This allowed me to build large number of groups during the big courses that I was organising, to evaluate participants’ progress, and to practice with them till the publications get published.
What researcher would you like to work with or meet, dead or alive?
From the last 100 years; Alfred G. Knudson Jr, and from the last 1000 years; Ibn Al-Haytham.
Besides, many people that impressed me by their art of organised depiction starting from nominal observations.
What book are you reading at the moment?
Behave, by Robert Sapolsky. It provides a perspective of a scientist on the triggers and development of human behaviour and the potential relation to other creatures.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned this week?
Working in research raises the threshold of signals that can be named interesting. It teaches you to doubt everything. Everything requires re-analysis even what very reputable outlets broadcast.
What is the best part about working in research?
You keep asking, diving in the space of answers, you keep mutating and breeding your questions, evaluating your question, however, no answer is satisfying, but you report your position and enjoy the game.
And the most challenging part about working in research?
To convince humans of something they cannot model (imagine) and to form holes in their conflicts of interest.
What is one Mendeley “ProTip” you have?
Drag, drop, show me your paper
Dr. Ahmed Samir Alfaar, is a physician (ophthalmologist), informatician, medical educator, patients’ advocate and clinical research expert. He was graduated from Cairo University Medical School in 2005. He received PPCR Clinical research certificate from Harvard University in 2009, Certificate of E-Learning Development from Inwent-GIZ in 2009, Diploma in Informatics from Helwan University in 2010, Master of science in Ophthalmology in 2012, and Masters of Science in Advanced Oncology from Ulm University in 2014. Ahmed worked as a clinical research specialist in Retinoblastoma and Pediatric solid tumors between 2008 and 2014 in the Children’s Cancer Hospital – Egypt, and the head of research education unit between 2011 and 2014.
He moved to Berlin in 2015 to work in the experimental ophthalmology department, Charité Universtätsmedizin-Berlin and received his first doctorate degree (Dr. med.) in Ocular Oncology in 2018 and since 2017 he has been studying for MD/PhD degree in the International Graduate School of Medical Neuroscience, Humboldt University and Charité Universtätsmedizin-Berlin.
Ahmed has received multiple awards and grants for his activities in research and education.
He has been a Mendeley advisor since September 2012, one of the first advisors in Egypt, and taught referencing management using Mendeley to hundreds of students worldwide.
Further details can be found on:
Mendeley Profile: https://j.mp/AlfaarMEND
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