In 2015 Hasan Maridi survived a humanitarian disaster in Yemen. “This conflict, war, and siege left one of the largest humanitarian disasters in the world with more than one hundred thousand dead and wounded, and the displacement of an estimated four million. The destruction of infrastructure, public services, health and education sectors followed, and 80% need urgent life-saving assistance,” – says Dr Maridi to Research in Poland. He is now based at the University of Warsaw under a funded fellowship from the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA) until 31 August 2022. Following a publication of Hasan Maridi’s story in Nature journal on 19 October 2021, Research in Poland has contacted Dr Maridi and Professor Krzysztof Rusek, Dr Maridi’s scientific supervisor in Warsaw, to ask a few questions about their work, Hasan’s experience and his stay in Poland.
Surviving a civil war
Hasan is a nuclear physicist who obtained his PhD at Cairo University. After graduation, he returned to a Yemeni village, where he comes from, “with great dreams and scientific projects” to “build a life there with his wife and three children.” In 2015 the civil war was continuing in Yemen between different parties: Sanaa authorities “Houthis”, the Southern transitional council, and the recognised Yemeni government, backed by the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In March 2015, airstrikes conducted by Saudi Arabian forces deprived the people of water, the Internet, and a lot of facilities. These days Hasan was working at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Hodeida. His salary was about US$90 monthly, and the family living conditions were challenging: they lived in a single room without beds, water and electricity.
Arriving in Poland
As Maridi emphasises, “years of conflict, many airstrikes and machine-gun fire have caused extensive damage to educational institutions and universities.” He applied for an IIE-SRF scholarship and got a grant in 2018. He worked as an assistant professor in alternative energy technology at Philadelphia University in Amman. A professor he had met earlier, Krzysztof Rusek, from Heavy Ion Laboratory at the University of Warsaw, told him about the Ulam programme from NAWA. Hasan got a NAWA fellowship at Heavy Ion Laboratory, the University of Warsaw, from September 2020 until 31 August 2022.
Now, Professor Krzysztof Rusek is Dr Maridi’s scientific supervisor in Warsaw. As Rusek says, “we have published together a few papers, the most important of which concerns the topics related to the nuclear reactions caused by weakly-bound (easily deformed) atomic nuclei.” The effect of this process is important not only for cognitive reasons but also for practical ones. “When we think about the future and energy, we immediately think about nuclear reactions; we use them to produce isotopes that are used in medicine more and more often”- adds Prof. Rusek. As indicated by the Professor, the formal procedures of Dr Maridi’s stay went smoothly. “Unfortunately, Hasan’s family is still in Amman. He did not manage to bring them to Poland due to a refusal of the immigration office”, he adds.
Staying in Poland
“My stay in Poland has been an excellent experience for me. Poland is a beautiful country” – says Maridi. “My work at the University of Warsaw is going well. I learned many things in my specialisation. I returned to research and publication, which is very good for me to continue my research career. Also, the fund from NAWA is enough for me to live well, save my family, and conduct my research. Therefore, I am grateful for this support, and will remain so for a lifetime” – adds the scientist.
What about the future? “I have dreams, so I just work more, publish more, and move towards my dreams, taking into account the available chances. I would like to stay working in the scientific research community in Europe or the USA for many years to continue my research career. This depends on the available scholarships. My Ulam programme fellowship from NAWA at the University of Warsaw will be finished at the end of August 2022, and I have started applying for many fellowship grants in several European and American universities, and I hope for success” – Dr Maridi sums up.
Photo: Private archive of dr Hasan Maridi