Giving Back Beyond the Laboratory
Nataly Naser Al Deen
Cancer Researcher and Pink Steps Founder
2014 Fulbright Foreign Student from Lebanon
Nataly Naser Al Deen has dedicated herself to the fight against cancer, both as a leading researcher and as the founder of an NGO that encourages fitness for breast cancer survivors. A three-time recipient of U.S. Department of State-funded scholarships, she is currently conducting postdoctoral cancer research at the Ding Lab at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Naser Al Deen is also an outspoken advocate for women in STEM and a proponent of cultural exchange and study abroad for personal and academic growth. She credits her scholarships for helping her to become the woman and researcher she is today.
Naser Al Deen first found her passion for cancer research while studying as a Lebanese student at the American University in Cairo. Since childhood, she has been fascinated by science and medicine, looking up to her family members in the medical profession. “I was impressed by their work and wanted to impact the medical and research field myself,” she said. Her studies, funded by the U.S. Department of State Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Tomorrow’s Leaders Program, introduced her to medical research, and inspired her to pursue it as a career. She was selected in 2014 for a Fulbright Foreign Student grant, which allowed her to earn her M.Sc. in tumor biology from Georgetown University Medical Center and join a research team at Lombardi Cancer Center testing the efficacy of a treatment for triple negative breast cancer. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology from the American University of Beirut.
While studying at Georgetown, Naser Al Deen learned that her cousin had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This inspired her to start what eventually became the NGO, Pink Steps. “Through my experiences in the U.S., I learned the importance of providing for the community, especially when it comes to cancer prevention and lifestyle changes,” says Naser Al Deen. Pink Steps empowers women cancer survivors by offering a healthier lifestyle and better quality of life. Funded by a Fulbright Alumni Community Action Grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Pink Steps encourages increased fitness levels in cancer survivors through daily walks monitored by pedometers. Pink Steps is Naser Al Deen’s way of effecting immediate change in her community while working steadfastly in the laboratory to contribute to a cure for the disease.
Before she became a cancer researcher and the face of young women scientists in Lebanon, Naser Al Deen studied abroad in Hawaii for a year through the U.S. Department of State-funded Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Program. She credits her experience studying at an American high school for turning her into an outspoken, independent woman. And since that first exchange opportunity, she has never missed a chance to build her skills, nourish her passions, and spread awareness through collaboration with people from all over the world. Reflecting on what she regards as her gratitude and the responsibility she feels to her community, Naser Al Deen said “being awarded various scholarships that fully supported all of my higher education journey thus far has been my greatest driving force for me to achieve more and give back to my community and the research and scientific fields.”