Sara Mahmoud Hegy Ahmed

Sara's scientific work in one sentence

We discovered that the steroid sex hormones from the ovary regulate the intestinal stem cell divisions in the Drosophila gut, making the gut grow to uptake more nutrients that are needed for egg laying, but this comes at the expense of faster aging and more intestinal tumor burden.

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Short CV

PhD: 2020, University of Heidelberg and DKFZ, Heidelberg Germany
Current Position: : Post-doc at the DKFZ, Heidelberg

What is - in your opinion - your best publication?

Ahmed, S.M.H., Maldera, J.A., Krunic, D. et al. Fitness trade-offs incurred by ovary-to-gut steroid signalling in Drosophila. Nature584, 415–419 (2020).

What are your most important prizes and memeberships?

Prizes: Travel grant from the Graduate School for the International PhD Cancer Conference in Amsterdam, 2019
Scholarship award from the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen funded by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), 2011

Memberships: Maqal Elmy translated as: “scientific article”; a pan Arab social initiative aimed at delivering top-notch research findings in a simplified way to the non-scientific community, thereby increasing scientific awareness amongst the society

5 questions about research - past, present, future

1. What are your primary tasks and responsibilities in your actual position?
I spend most of my time reading relevant literature articles, planning experiments and doing them, then analyzing data and presenting it regularly in lab group meetings or less regularly at conferences.

2. What is it that gives you pleasure and/or satisfaction the most?
Brainstorming with my boss when we are stuck with a result that we don’t understand. It brings me great joy to get him excited about a hypothesis to test and it’s such a happy day when I look through the microscope’s lenses to realize that this difficult experiment then worked and we now understand more what our original result means!!

3. Which research question(s) affects you at the moment? What is its social significance?
The roles of steroid sex hormones such as estrogens and testosterones are highly relevant to study and understand because hormone receptors are widely expressed through out nearly every organ in our body. We know relatively a lot about how sex hormones regulate sexual differentiation and the physiology of sex organs. But, their roles in regulating the gut physiology and pathology is more controversial and of mixed evidence. I hope that through our study that provides in-vivo evidence for the functions of steroid sex hormones in the Drosophila male and female midgut, it will eventually, through more follow-up studies contribute to better more relevant preventive strategies for gastrointestinal (GI) cancers or improve the therapeutic outcome for GI cancer patients.

4. Which publication influenced you the most?
I have to say that the literature about developmental biology and sexual differentiation dazzles me, especially the older papers that had much fewer tools to explore a biological question but were able to do so quite neatly. So many events happen during an organism’s life cycle and even if we understand many things by now, there’s still so much yet to be discovered. The potential there never fails to draw a smile on my face, always!

5. What do you like most about AMPro? What are your particular plans within the collaboration?
I really like the inter-disciplinary approach of AMPro, it gathers scientists from a variety of fields which creates a diverse medium for exchange of knowledge and possible collaborations. When I presented my talk at the AMPro annual meeting, I was very pleased about the level of engagement I received from the AMPro scientists of different backgrounds and stages of research.

5 questions beyond research

1. What are your experiences with reconciliation of family or private and working life?
I have learned so much that I feel like a guru but: if I would pick two things to say, they’d be: 1) One has to learn to find ways to enjoy and engage with the moment that is happening NOW, because it will pass anyways, and it will be gone soon and because nothing comes for free, one has to learn which decisions would suit them most! 2) Often at the times when you want to give up the most is the time when the universe is working its wonders, so keep iterating and improving and be flexible but, don’t give up!!

2. What is the experience during your PhD you will remember all your life?
The mentorship of my boss and how much I have learned from him. As well as all the marvelous people I have crossed paths with who helped me discover my potential or supported me along the way.

3. Which book and/or movie has lately affected you the most?
I am generally a big fan of self-development and self-healing books. Lately, I was affected by Atomic Habits by James Clear!

4. What are your hobbies?
Planting, I love to see plants heal and grow with the season changes, it inspires me a lot, I mostly learned about flexibility and strength to heal from plants actually! I am into Arabic Calligraphy and I love to spend my time also in volunteering especially for children’s causes. Lately, I enjoy coaching other post-graduate or undergraduate students about their career choices and together working a way past the famous “mental-block” that happens somewhere along the early scientific career life. It’s how I feel I can pay back all the immense knowledge and skill sets I acquired during my PhD.

5. What is your favorite color, season and/or football (or other sports) club?
My favorite color is red, I suppose. Oh, and my favorite season is DEFINITELY summer by the beach!!