MolSSI Software Scientist: Dr. Doaa Altarawy

At The MolSSI, we have an exceptional team working to create pathways for solving the NSF’s Grand Challenges. Over the next several months, we’ll be introducing each of our staff to you in order to celebrate their impact on The MolSSI.

Dr. Doaa Altarawy is one of our Software Scientists. She lived in “the beautiful city of Alexandria in Egypt” before moving to Blacksburg, Virginia, upon receiving a Ph.D. fellowship from the VT-MENA (Virginia Tech-Middle East and North Africa) program. “My primary field of research is in machine learning, systems biology, and software engineering which are branches of computer science,” Doaa explained.

Doaa realized her passion for software development in middle school. “It was my passion since I was a child to work on projects that enable and facilitate discoveries in medicine. In other words, developing software and tools that make those discoveries possible.” Interdisciplinary research was the best path for Doaa, combining biomolecular sciences with computer science to better understand complex diseases and thus help push drug design forward. “In the past decade, and with the emergence of the big data era, it has become apparent that computational science will play a big role in moving new discoveries in various domains. As for me, I have been always interested in computational biology which I worked on in my masters and my Ph.D.”

So what brought her to the MolSSI? “As a Computer Scientist, I picked the MolSSI for several reasons…I like both teaching and software development which is a perfect match for the Software Scientist role. With respect to achievements, it’s invaluable to be part of a team that is working to improve software development in an important foundational area like computational chemistry.”

The MolSSI has always championed collaboration as one of our keys to success. “I love working in a team, especially in interdisciplinary settings where we develop domain-specific applications,” Doaa said. “I enjoy teaching boot camps and workshops and mentoring graduate students. It’s very rewarding to see how they learn over time and how they eventually produce their own successful software solutions.”

Further, it’s not just the teamwork that Doaa loves, but the community that the MolSSI strives to foster. Inclusivity is particularly important for Doaa, in that the MolSSI creates a space accepting and uplifting of all scientists. “One of my favorite things at MolSSI is its inclusive environment for females and minorities which makes me feel at home and encourages me to produce my best,” she said. “In addition, I prefer working in interdisciplinary projects where we can develop applications not only in computer science but also serving other domains like chemistry and biochemistry.”

And when we say all scientists, we do mean all–even the youngest ones! Doaa’s 9-year-old twins love to attend MolSSI social events with their mom. “They are friends with the team here; it’s a great and friendly working environment!” Doaa said.

Family is incredibly important to Doaa, both the collaboration and “family” aspect of the MolSSI, and her family at home. When deciding her path forward after completing her Ph.D., Doaa considered what next steps would serve her research goals and her family’s needs the most. The MolSSI was the answer. For Doaa, Virginia Tech “is a perfect place to work and live nearby, especially when I have a family.” When she and her family aren’t at the MolSSI, “we do lots of activities like sports and learning about science and languages.”

As a member of the Association of Women in Computing (AWC), Doaa hopes that her role in the MolSSI’s educational outreach will continue to encourage the next generation of female computer scientists. “I love computer science” she said, “and I would like to encourage females to join that field, and STEM in general.”

Thank you, Doaa, for your enthusiasm and dedication to interdisciplinary research and collaboration in our field. Our organization is better and stronger because of you!