An Egyptian engineer wins a prestigious international award for her role in the treatment of agricultural wastewater

This is Egyptian engineer Sarah Abdel Qader, who recently won a program award “L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science 2021 for Young Talents”.

UN News conducted an interview with engineer Sarah, who believes that engineering is the magic key to finding solutions that benefit humanity.

Let’s first know who Sarah Abdel Qader is?

I’m Sarah Abdelkader, an environmental specialist. She graduated from the American University of Sharjah with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. After that, I returned to Egypt and enrolled for the Environmental Engineering program at the American University in Cairo and obtained a master’s degree in 2020.

I was involved in a number of research related to water, its treatment and management. Now I am a PhD student at the Institute of Global Health and Human Ecology at the American University of Cairo.


Let’s now move on to the honor! You have been awarded a L’Oréal UNESCO Prize for your research entitled: “Sustainable On-Site Treatment Methods for Treating Agricultural Wastewater for Giants in Irrigation”. Tell us a little bit about this research and what motivated you to do it?

To know the importance of the research, it should be noted that in Egypt agricultural drainage water is regularly reused for irrigation, but on a small scale, amounting to about 4 billion cubic meters of agricultural drainage water.

The government has an ambitious plan aimed at reaching 8 billion cubic meters.

The problem of agricultural drainage is that in some places – especially remote areas in the Egyptian countryside that do not have a good sewage system and do not have industrial wastewater treatment plants – the agricultural drainage water is contaminated with sewage. In this case, the agricultural wastewater needs more advanced treatment to be able to reuse the agricultural wastewater.

The idea of ​​the research is to manufacture or design a treatment unit consisting of low-cost materials and solid agricultural waste. This unit can be placed in the drain so that the worker or farmer can take the water out of it immediately after it has been treated.

This unit is supposed to be movable so that one unit can serve a number of agricultural lands through an appropriate schedule.

We are currently preparing a map of the banks in Egypt to know the percentage of pollution in each bank so that we can group the existing banks to find out which are the most polluted.

How were you selected to participate in the “L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2021 Young Talents Program”?

L’Oréal UNESCO opens the door for applications for its award in April/April every year. At that point, I had just finished my Ph.D. I was very interested in this research and wanted to apply it, but I needed support.

After a while, I received news from L’Oreal saying that I had been selected among three Egyptian female researchers.

Sarah Abdelkader

Engineer Sarah Abdel Qader, an environmental specialist from Egypt. She recently won an award

This honor is not the first for you, as you have already won other awards, including one related to innovation in Bahrain. Tell us about it?

It was a competition organized by the United Nations Environment Program in collaboration with UNIDO for innovative ideas that could become the core of small projects or start-ups.

I went with a group of colleagues. The idea was to develop plastic and wood panels together so that these panels are transparent and allow the entry of light so that we can preserve the properties of wood to conserve heat and at the same time allow the entrance of light. We made it for greenhouse use as an alternative to glass and plastic.

These panels enable us to maintain heat inside the greenhouse and thus we can reduce wasted energy due to cooling or heating, as well as we can save water used for cooling, because in advanced greenhouses water is used as a coolant use.

The research was well received by the United Nations Environment Program, so we got second place in the competition, and that’s one of the things I’m proud to participate in, because it was a revolutionary idea for us.

The field of engineering is described by some as a male-dominated field. When you decided to study engineering, did you have any motivation to refute this belief?

My entry into engineering was not motivated by any idea that it was dominated by men. I came into the field because I knew I was going to excel in it.

I chose engineering because I knew it was the field in which I could help the community and provide solutions.

For me, it was a magic key to find solutions that would benefit humanity. This is the idea that should be in the mind of any girl when entering any field. The girl does not have to prove anything to anyone.

For the idea of ​​importance in proving the inaccuracy of a theory – which was originally unfounded – is to me a waste of one’s resources and effort.

Engineer Sarah Abdel Qader, an environmental specialist from Egypt.  She recently won an award

Sarah Abdelkader

Engineer Sarah Abdel Qader, an environmental specialist from Egypt. She recently won an award

What do you say to girls who want to study engineering?

I tell them that this field needs passion, love, mastery and dedication. Girls have these characteristics. The percentage of girls graduating from science and engineering colleges in Egypt is about 48 percent.

It has always been known that vegetarians are more committed to universities and study. They need nothing but that they desire whatever field they want to join. They do not have to enter any field just because they want to prove something to anyone.

Girls have a lot of energy, but this energy is either wasted because of some social constraints, or the constraints that girls place on themselves, and they think they are incapable, of course, it’s because of a cultural or educational heritage.

Research work is a collection of experiences we gain from success and failure

I am convinced that external constraints are not stronger than internal constraints, because external constraints can be overcome by anyone, and therefore the problem lies in internal constraints.

My advice to any girl is not to succumb to internal constraints, such as thinking that engineering is difficult, that math is complicated and causes “brain pain”.

These thoughts are more limited than real.

Are there any last words?

If I had one last word, I would address it to every researcher, whether male or female, namely that research work is a set of experiences we get from success and failure. The researcher or researcher should not concede to failure or be misled by success.

Sarah Abdel Qader, Egyptian Engineering Award Winner Program

Sarah Abdelkader

Sarah Abdel Qader, Egyptian Engineering Award Winner Program

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