Michael Sars Centre

From Beirut to Arctic; With a stop in a Sars lab

Despite the pandemic and its negative effects on academic mobility, the Sars Centre groups continued to host and train undergraduate students from foreign Universities, mainly at the Master of Science level. Mohamad Wahidi was finishing his internship the last week of June this year, and embarked then for a two week long arctic cruise devoted to deep sea research. He already has a rich international experience and he wished to share with us his feelings from his stay at Sars.

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‘One of the most fascinating things about working in a biology lab is the ability to understand how life works at the molecular level…leading us one step closer towards understanding its origins’ -Mohamad Wahidi

After finishing high school in Beirut, Lebanon, I decided to move to Germany to study Biology. As a result of my growing interest and fascination about living organisms, I ended up majoring in Biology, one of the most dynamic and modern scientific fields.

Now, I am about to finish my master’s in Molecular Biosciences at Sorbonne University in Paris, where I am specializing in molecular developmental and evolutionary biology.

Along my studies, I have tried to gain a solid background in molecular biology and did research internships in various topics such as cellular biotechnology, molecular genetics, epigenetics, cancer biology, and plant biology. 

I chose to come to Bergen for my master’s thesis internship that I conducted here, at the Sars Centre in the lab of Pr. Daniel Chourrout. I investigated the role of Pax37 gene paralogs*  in the organization of the house-producing epithelium in Oikopleura dioica, a tunicate that has been established as a model organism for researching chordate evolution. 

I always had a profound interest for both biology and space sciences, which is why I would like to direct my research into astrobiology, a field that I already have some background in.

Next year I will be specializing in systems & synthetic biology, and I’ll be active in the area of synthetic astrobiology. This field mainly involves re-engineering organisms at the molecular level, to the aim of obtaining new abilities which can then be useful for missions to other planets, such as Mars, and the Moon. 

Besides science and working in labs, I am a regular swimmer and I enjoy any kind of outdoor activities. I like to go on mountain hikes on weekends and sometimes I dive. I find the water world extremely captivating. I can just enjoy my neutral buoyancy in water while watching the harmony of marine life. 

In addition to that, I enjoy being part of expeditions and working on any sort of tasks with other people in a team. For instance, this summer I’ll be part of a cruise in the Norwegian-Greenland ocean that is organized by the Centre of Deep-Sea Research in Bergen, which is something I’ll be looking forward to with great enthusiam.

Working at Sars has been an interesting experience. I met people with great minds from different parts of the world, in addition to getting to know Norway for the first time and adding Norwegian to the list of languages that I understand.  

If you are curious and interested in molecular- and marine biology, then the Sars Centre in Bergen is definitely a place you would like to experience!

*Oikopleura has four of them!