Until 9/11, Shereen El Feki (BSc 1991 TRIN) says her Arab identity existed primarily in name. She grew up in Waterloo, Ont., where her Egyptian-born Muslim father and Welsh-born mother, who had converted to Islam, raised her with what she calls “an icing of Islam” – a handful of memorized Koranic verses and a few dietary restrictions. Yet when the world’s attention shifted to Islam and the Middle East after 2001, she felt a growing need to connect to her Arab roots.
In 2004, El Feki took a leave of absence from her job as healthcare correspondent for The Economist in London to live in Cairo for several months. She studied Arabic and learned more about Islam, and left wanting to contribute to better relations between the West and the Middle East. “There’s so much misunderstanding and suspicion,” she says. “I thought, ‘Surely there must be a role for people who can straddle both worlds.’”
Today El Feki is back in London working at Al Jazeera International, the world’s first English news channel headquartered in the Middle East. Set to launch later this year, it has broadcast hubs not only in London, but in Washington, D.C.; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Doha, Qatar. As part of her twice-weekly current affairs show, People and Power, El Feki will look at “who has power, who wants power, and who’s on the receiving end of power around the world, including the Middle East.” El Feki adds, “It’s much easier to build a bridge if you have someone building from the other side. I’d like to be one of those people.”
By bringing artificial intelligence into chemistry, Prof. Aspuru-Guzik aims to vastly shrink the time it takes to develop new drugs – and almost everything else