Dr. Rawan Khalaf Bags PhD before the Age of 26
“I have always heard the phrase, “Success is a journey, not a destination,” and after my experience, I gained an understanding of its meaning. The journey is about learning, refining your personality, and improving yourself. The journey is the real success,” Dr. Rawan Khalaf said.
Dr. Rawan Khalaf’s academic journey started when she joined An Najah National University to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry. In just three years, she graduated with distinction and continued pursuing her Master's degree in the same field and at the same university, where she succeeded excellently in two years.
She was one of the top students at school, and she set her sights on becoming a professor of chemistry. After getting the support of her family for her decisions and dreams, she applied to study pure chemistry at An Najah National University (NNU) in 2013. “Ever since my first visit to An Najah on a school trip, I knew I wanted to study there. Even though I had other options, I loved the university. Since the moment I joined, I've planned to pursue a Bachelor's degree, a Master's degree, and a Ph.D., which is due to my passion for chemistry and eagerness to learn,” said Dr. Khalaf.
She added, “My enrollment in the Master's program, from taking courses to working on my thesis under the supervision of Dr. Ismail Badran, Associate Professor of Physical Chemistry, has helped me get scientific and practical experience. I also got the chance to work as a research and teaching assistant within the scholarship system offered by the university to Master's students in scientific faculties.”
She felt passionate about studying chemistry, from understanding the theoretical part to practicing its application in labs using university equipment. With her family's encouragement and her professors showing her full support to continue her educational journey, she decided to start preparing for her Ph.D. during her Master's. After contacting several universities, she was accepted to join the University of Bordeaux in France under the supervision of Prof. Serge Ravaine and was granted the French government scholarship for Palestinian students. After one month of finishing her Master's, she traveled to France to join the Ph.D. program in 2018.
“I love learning and looking into further details about things around me. In science, there is something new to learn every day. Therefore, during the three years of working on my Ph.D., I tried to gain scientific and practical experience so I could invest in my country, Palestine, and my university, An Najah. I also learned about the languages, cultures, customs, and traditions of many countries around the world.”
Over the years, Dr. Khalaf has been granted many scholarships and awards during her educational journey. One of the most memorable moments was winning the Best Presentation Award on the occasion of “Scientific-Day” at the University of Bordeaux. She said, “Thanks to the strong scientific background that I have learned from An Najah and the University of Bordeaux. It was an honor to come second in winning such an award among all the participants.”
It took Dr. Khalaf just eight years to work on her academic journey and get to the point of finishing her Ph.D., which makes her the youngest An Najah student to do so. Completing all degrees of the educational journey must be challenging, yet, she did it with distinction for her love of chemistry and the wish to achieve something remarkable despite the factor of time.
She came back recently and started working as a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at An-Najah National University. She hopes she will live up to her professors’ expectations while working in her new position. She is looking forward to sharing her experience and inspiring other students with her journey.
Dr. Khalaf’s advice for students is to look for what they want, study what they love, and plan their own path, so they can unlock their creativity and thrive to participate in building the world. “I believe that Arab minds in general and the Palestinians' minds in particular have a lot of potential for success, growth, and the ability to make a change,” she said.