Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Nisrine Machaka-Houri

 
 Dr. Nisrine Machaka-Houri
 
Dr. Machaka-Houri was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1976 . She is the third child of a family of four children. Her father got a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Saint Joseph (USJ), which inspired her two brothers to pursue their bachelor’s in the same major. Her mother only finished the 9th grade, and her only sister finished the 12th grade. Dr. Machaka-Houri, did not decide to get a PhD until later in her life, after she got married to her beloved husband—Dr. Ahmad Houri. She was the first person to have a PhD degree in her family, which encouraged one of her brothers to get his PhD in his field.
 
After graduating from high school, Dr. Machaka-Houri applied to many universities. Unfortunately, she was not accepted into any of them. Or is it fortunately? After her wedding to Dr. Houri, a postdoc at Scripps Research Institute, San Diego, she began to pursue her undergraduate education in interior design at Design Institute of San Diego, a subject she was quite fascinated with. After having settled into their new life in the United States, Dr. Machaka-Houri and her husband began to find great joy in their discovery of the nature around them, wondering about its beauty, and capturing a plethora of pictures of a variety of flowers. Dr. Houri’s passion for photography as a hobby, stirred a passion for Dr. Machaka-Houri with experiences that she fondly refers to as “amusing” and “amazing”.
 
After year and a half, the couple returned to their home in Lebanon, where Dr. Machaka-Houri received her B.S. in interior design from the Lebanese American University (LAU), in 2001. But it was the memories of her discoveries of the flora and her curiosity for the variation in nature, that caused her to pursue the discovery of the plants and nature around her in Lebanon. At the initial stages of her exploration of nature, there was only one floral guide available in Lebanon that only classified about 165 flowers.  they encountered a great difficulty in their attempts to catalogue and discern the different flora around them, causing them to begin their own field guide and classification of the diversity in plant life around them.  Thus they created their own floral field guide, based on their collection of pictures and particular attention to detail. And within a short amount of time, Ahmad and Nisrine published the first volume of the Photographic Guide to Wild Flowers of Lebanon in 2001, that consisted of images and details about 240 species of plants. 
 
Photographic guide to wild flowers of Lebanon – Volume (1)
 

Example of the floral classification in the Photographic guide to wild flowers of Lebanon book
 
Having published their book, and with a deeply rooted passion for nature, Dr. Machaka-Houri received her postgraduate diploma in Biodiversity Conservation and Management in 2006 from the University of London. The journey to her professional certification in the field of botanical studies and biodiversity, was marked by her determination to succeed and learn even if it required great lengths and dedication through long-distance learning. Two years later, in 2008, Ahmad and Nisrine published the second volume of the Photographic Guide to Wild Flowers of Lebanon, that classified additional 400 species. However, even with two major publications, Dr. Machaka-Houri received a lot of underestimation from her peers, who judged her place in academia due to her contribution to the field guides with a mere undergraduate degree. And so in order to validate her place in academia, she decided to continue her education and get a PhD, becoming one of the most accomplished women in ecology by 2013. Soon after, in 2014 she went back to USA with her husband and three beautiful children, to continue her postdoctoral education with an esteemed fellowship at the department of Plant and Microbial Biology at University of California, Berkeley. 
                                  

Photographic guide to wild flowers of Lebanon – Volume (2)

 
   
Dr. Machaka-Houri has continued contributing to the scientific field through her published works, books, presentations, conferences, and continued research in biodiversity. Moreover, she was as a coordinator for developing an ecotourism website for the Green-Line Organization, where she personally worked on the historic sites and wild flower sections in Lebanon. She also enjoys volunteering at Ibad Al Rahman Organization to sponsor, the disadvantaged students in Lebanon. With her contributions to science and society she was awarded the “Women in Science Hall of Fame - 2015” award—program initiated by the U.S. Department of State. In 2015 she was selected to participate in the “Women's Innovations in Science Entrepreneurship (WISE)” program, to be conducted April 11-29, 2016 in the US.
 
 
Dr. Nisrine Machaka-Houri and her family
 
 

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