Waterloo celebrates graduating PhD students

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Faculty of Science will welcome 41 new graduates from Science PhD programs this week, including chemistry PhD student Abir Khaled, who developed the methodology to quantify hundreds of pharmaceutical drug residues in meat samples and foodstuffs.

For graduating PhD students, completing their dissertation defence is a significant milestone, as well as a time to celebrate their accomplishments with friends and family. But for Abir Khaled (MSc '99), earning a PhD degree with the University of Waterloo has been a long, sought-after goal. After finding out she was pregnant during her masters as a Waterloo student, Khaled put her PhD degree on hold to raise her daughter. Today, those events have come full circle, with Khaled not only graduating this spring with a PhD in Analytical Chemistry, but her daughter also graduating from Waterloo with a degree in chemical engineering.

Ola Elkhatib and Abir Khaled in front of their UWaterloo convocation lawn signs

Ola Elkhatib and Abir Khaled.

Khaled’s research focused on the development of automated and high-throughput analytical methods that allow scientists and regulatory agencies to quickly identify and quantify hundreds of pharmaceutical drug residues in meat samples and foodstuffs.

As an analytical chemist, Khaled says she’s very interested in developing efficient and green, environmentally friendly methodologies. She completed her PhD under the supervision of Janusz Pawliszyn, the inventor of solid phase microextraction and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and Canada Research Chair/NSERC Industrial Research Chair in New Analytical Methods and Technologies. Professor Pawliszyn’s Research Group are world-renowned leaders in the field of green analytical chemistry.

Looking back on her years with Waterloo, Khaled says she will fondly remember the times she’s been able to connect with so many different people from different countries and having coffees breaks with friends (sometimes after failed experiments). While a PhD itself represents the ultimate achievement for a student, Khaled says she also treasures the friendships she has made throughout her studies that will last a lifetime. She jokes, however, that she will not miss walking to a car covered in snow after working late nights.

As for her piece of advice for future PhD students?

“There’s so many! Be proactive and take full responsibility for your research, but also seek advice from senior group members, take care of your physical and mental health, keep an organized notebook/lab book, start writing as soon as possible and last, but not least, enjoy the journey.”

Khaled will remain part of Waterloo as a postdoctoral research with Professor Pawliszyn’s Research Group for the next couple of months and at the same time, is exploring new opportunities within the industry.

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