Meet Dr. Simone Badal, Lecturer in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica

February 3, 2019


Dr. Badal’s Bio

Pioneering Scientist, avant-garde Lecturer and compassionate Philanthropist are a few of the designations ascribed to Dr. Simone Badal. Lecturer in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the UWI, Mona – she teaches Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Cell Culture, Pharmacognosy, Biotechnology I, Bioenergetics and Cell Metabolism and Plant Biochemistry courses. She is Primary Investigator for the development of novel Prostate Cancer and normal Jamaican cell lines, Primary Investigator for the development of novel Breast Cancer and normal Jamaican cell lines and has also been Primary Investigator for 3 MSc. students on the screening of the cytotoxic effects of fungal metabolites on established ATCC cancer cell lines. With an unwavering commitment to develop anti-cancer research in the faculty, Badal spearheaded the development of a cytotoxic screening laboratory at the Natural Products Institute while conducting, overseeing and training staff for cell culture experiments with a focus on screening Jamaican natural products for potential anticancer properties; she also conducted, oversaw and trained staff in CYP450 inhibition assays while managing the Biochemistry Lab.

In 2010, Dr. Badal was named Young Scientist/Technologist awardee at the 23rd Science and Technology Conference and Expo, Jamaica, and was the Inaugural Luther Speare Scholar from the UWI, Mona also in 2010. She went on to become one of five women chemists worldwide to be honored with the Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early Career Women Scientists in the Developing World and was also recently recognized as the leading young female chemist in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Dr. Badal holds the Bachelor of Science, Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees from The UWI, Mona and also holds an MBA from the University of Wales. She received the Principal’s award for best research publication in 2014 and 2017 from the UWI, Mona for joint publications, “Antiproliferative activity and absolute configuration of zonaquinone acetate from the Jamaican alga Stypopodium zonlae” and “Glaucarubulone glucoside from Castela macrophylla suppresses MCF-7 breast cancer cell growth and attenuates benzo[a]pyrene-mediated CYP1A gene induction” respectively. She is an editorial board member of the American International Journal of Biology and an advisory board member and reviewer of Open Access Biochemistry, London. She has also reviewed several papers, including papers for European Journal for Medicinal Plants and Journal of Medicinal Plant Research. Dr Badal has some eighteen publications in peer-reviewed journals, two abstracts in refereed journals and seventeen abstracts that were presented in poster format at scientific meetings.

Beyond her academic and professional pursuits, Dr. Badal has embarked on a noble mission aimed at providing a second chance for persons to gain the education and skills necessary to acquire a job or pursue higher learning. Through her brainchild, Anti-Cancer Research Jamaica Foundation (ACRJF), which was established and registered in January 2017, close to USD$90,000 has been raised to date to assist high-school dropouts and others to sit Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects or to pursue vocational training.

Why did you get into STEM?
I remember having an affinity for the sciences since high school. As students, we were placed in specific forms based on our grade point average. Back then, students who scored high averages were deemed the ‘cream of the crop’ and were automatically placed in forms that focused on the sciences. Indeed, I was among these brilliant individuals. What I know is that I liked the sciences and I hoped that I could have attained a career in medicine. Could it be because there was a certain prestige around such a career or was it because I had a deep passion for helping the sick? Looking back, I think the prestige of the career was the allure.

While in undergrad in the faculty of Pure & Applied Sciences at The UWI, Mona, I still had the mind-set of pursuing medicine; however, in my final year, during a Biochemistry class, I decided I wanted to give research a try. Whether it was an ‘aha moment’ or divine intervention, I’m not sure – All I know is that I’m happy I made the move, as it feels like a perfect fit, even though there might have been other career paths that could work out the same way.

With my current research focus, there is a sense of purpose and a great degree of fulfilment knowing that my everyday goal is towards finding a cure or treatment for breast and prostate cancers among women and men of African ancestry respectively. There is nothing more rewarding than formulating varied hypotheses and testing them in a lab. My current research is focused on developing breast and prostate cancer cell lines from women and men respectively, in the Caribbean. These severely limited tools will be used to study the biology of the tumours from which they were derived and also to identify possible personalized medicines similar to their Caucasian counterparts that are now predominantly used. So, why did I choose a career in STEM? Simple, to be of service to mankind. What other reason could there possibly be?

What do you consider your greatest achievements?
I am told that I have achieved a lot academically in a relatively short time-frame for someone in the STEM field, as not only have I earned four degrees, but also published a major scientific text, Pharmacognosy: Fundamentals, Applications and Strategies, with a leading scientific publisher, Elsevier and additionally being the founder of the ACRJ Foundation. Yet, these things are minuscule to the value I place on a good character and integrity. Doing what I say I’m going to do and when, as well as treating others the way I would want them to treat me, with love and respect, are fundamental values I hold dear. While I am not perfect and will never be in this lifetime, these are the things I cherish most and strive for every day and hope to do so until I take my final breath.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
The truth is I cannot pinpoint the challenges I’ve faced specifically associated with my being a woman in STEM. I believe the challenges I face could have been due primarily to my age. The question of if I were a man, would I have faced those challenges, leaves the possibility that I might or might not have. Nevertheless, for me, in spite of whatever challenges I faced, I was passionate about my purpose. This passion made me resolve to not give up and to find the best avenues to succeed; whether through consultation with my Heavenly Father, patience to work itself out or advice from respective senior personnel and then timely executed strategic moves. I didn’t get it all spot-on, right away, but I am getting better at it every day.

What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
Be passionate about your purpose firstly. Consult with others through reading or direct conversation as to how they handled similar situations and equip yourself with knowledge as to how to cope. Be wise with how you handle people and situations as to the tactics you use and when. Don’t associate disabling connotations to the challenges you will face or are facing but view them as enabling stepping stones to you becoming your best you. Resolve in your mind to learn and grow as much from these challenges as you can, ascending to your zenith.

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