20-year-old, Aidha Faisal is a final year Biotechnology student at BITS Pilani Dubai Campus. A black belt in karate, Aidha loves playing football. After her undergraduate degree, Aidha wishes to work in a research facility in the UAE or in a pharmaceutical company developing new drugs for a couple of years. Psychology is another area of her interest and wishes to study Forensic Criminology in future. In an interaction with Higher Education Digest, Aidha talks about her dreams, passions, and life as a student in the UAE.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Aidha Faisal, I am 20 years old doing my final year at BITS Pilani Dubai Campus. I studied in GEMS Our Own Indian School till grade 10 and then did years 11 and 12 in GEMS Modern Academy. I have always been an average student at school; however, in grade 11, I started showing a particular interest in psychology. By the end of two years, what began as a simple curiosity developed into a full-scale passion. I topped my school in the ISC board exams scoring a 98 on 100, and this got me thinking about pursuing my further studies in a psychology field. My teacher used to tell me stories of how she had to study a particular community, and she had to interview them, and all this really excited me. I consider myself to be a people person, so I would love to work in this field in the future. Apart from that, I also love sports. I play football and am a black belt in karate, and I hold these two sports close to my heart as I’ve been playing since I was 6 or 7. It is a great way to relieve stress, and I’m glad to have all the training.
What made you pursue Biotechnology Engineering at BITS Pilani Dubai?
Initially, I wanted to become a psychiatrist, but after grade 12, my plans changed. I wanted to take up psychology and biology together, and I feel biotechnology is a perfect choice. Not a lot of people know about the role of psychology in biotechnology because nobody would think about studying the human mind in an engineering field. From assessing the mental health of patients in hospitals for data analysis to forensics, psychology is a widely used branch in biotechnology. I have also been fascinated by sequencing genomes and genetic engineering, which is another reason why I was drawn to biotechnology engineering.
What are the career opportunities available for Biotechnology Engineers today?
The health sector is always developing, and new positions are created every day. Biotechnology is in between health and management, which is a perfect match for the following careers:
- The current trend in the field of biotechnology is specializing in food technology and working with the food industry. This field is always in demand and is a good career choice for those interested in food marketing, distribution, processing and quality management.
- Another good option is the agricultural engineering aspect and animal research, which are more research-oriented. It focuses on food production, animal genetics, diseases and nutrition.
- An underestimated career option is epidemiology, which studies the distribution, health factors and other risk factors in a population. In the present case, an epidemiologist has scope where public health is of great concern and recovery from the pandemic would take time.
- Forensic studies is another excellent choice after biotechnology as most of the laboratory tests are taught in the universities, so the base is strong when one starts a career in forensics. Under forensics, you can deviate further and specialize in specifics such as criminology, toxicology, pathology, ballistics, narcotics etc.
- Microbiology which is studying the biology of microbes and assessing their properties, if they are hazardous or if they can be used in combination with other living organisms for creating something useful.
- Biomedical engineering and genetic engineering.
Psychology is one of your areas of interest. How does expertise in Psychology boost your career?
We are always in search of explanations as to why humans behave they do and what causes them to take part in various actions. As a student of psychology, I can say that it is used in almost every single job because of the importance of mental health and its awareness. Mental health was a subject that was neglected for many years as job satisfaction did not matter in the capitalist business world. For the past few years, many companies have started focusing on the mental health of employees and checking up on them regularly. Studies show that improved mental health is increased productivity and efficiency. Similarly, even in health sectors psychology plays an important role in regulating the patients and helping them cope. Studying psychology at university or after really helps one with understanding the world around them and gives insights on how to work with people.
Despite being a Biotechnology Engineering student, you wish to study Forensic Criminology. What is the reason behind this shift?
As mentioned earlier, I have always had a knack for understanding the subject and applying it everywhere I go. I believe my skill could be used at a more sophisticated level and hence the choice of criminology because here we are dealing with criminals. Most psychology graduates study humans and get epidemiologic results in relation to normal humans. Still, I want to be involved in studying the minds of offenders and publish my theories on why they did what they did. There is a TV show called Mind hunter, which is about a detective who goes around interviewing the most dangerous criminals. This also inspired me to change course because I believe I am talented enough to be part of risky projects like understanding the minds of criminals. I agree it is rather an unconventional path, but I will try to utilize the opportunity well if given one. The reason I did not do a bachelors in psychology despite being good at the subject is that Biotechnology gives me a vast area for diverting and specializing in forensic criminology, which is a combination of both.
What are the courses available in Forensic Criminology in UAE? What are your favourite colleges?
In the UAE, forensic colleges are very few, and the degree to which specialization can be done is also limited. I wish to do my masters abroad in UK, Germany or Netherlands because of the exposure and wide variety of choices in a foreign university. In Dubai, Amity university offers a masters in forensic sciences, which is general whereas I want to my masters in criminology which is currently not in UAE. My dream university is Maastricht University in the Netherlands which offers a forensic criminology and law programme for 2 years and includes a 6-month internship. If not there then I’d want to go to Keele University in the UK which offers a programme called Analytical science for the industry which includes laboratory applications used in a forensic lab. More than that, I wish to give back to the community with my research and help in any way I can.
What are your hobbies? How did you utilize the recent lockdown time?
I love playing football, but since I could not leave the house, I didn’t really play much. I read a lot, so I spent most of my time reading and doing various courses on Coursera. We have membership in a public library in Dubai, so I would read about two to three novels in a week. I used to read voraciously when I was in school, but since I started university, I had held off reading for more than three years. This lockdown helped me reduce my screen time as I would spend hours reading at a stretch. On Coursera, I did courses on sustainability, environmental law and without a doubt- an introductory course on forensic psychology. I also utilized this time to learn three new languages, and it was only then I realized that language is another strong point for me. I learned Emarati Arabic, which is the Arabic dialect used in the UAE, and Spanish and I am still learning German. I decided to continue with German and Spanish because learning new languages is fun. Its similarity to English makes it amusing.
What are your short-term and long-term goals?
These are my last two semesters in university, and I wish to work straight after my bachelors because I think work experience is essential before doing my masters. Speaking of short-term goals, I want to work in a research facility in the UAE after my bachelors or in a pharmaceutical company developing new drugs for a couple of years. If I really do enjoy my job, I would try doing masters along with my work. I did talk about criminology, but that is way ahead in the future. Long term goals are doing my masters abroad and settling somewhere in Europe. Compared to the rest of the world, most European countries practice sustainable measures, and I want to migrate to an eco-friendly place.