Smiling wide and flying high – Mona Nasser joins Real Scientists

This week, it is our pleasure to welcome Mona Nasser to tweet for Real Scientists. Mona is a Clinical Lecturer in Evidence Based Dentistry in Peninsula Dental School at Plymouth University. She’s also our first curator from the Middle East, originally hailing from Iran. We made Mona sit our standard entry exam, I mean answer our totally fun and pressure-free questions, which she did with flair and aplomb. So here’s Mona, by Mona, introducing herself way better than we ever could!

I am Iranian and did my first degree in Dentistry in Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran. As part of my doctorate dissertation, I worked in the microbiology department of the Pasteur Institute in Tehran on the antimicrobial activity of some dental materials. As part of my first combined clinical and research job after university, I got involved in an international collaboration work on systematic reviews (systematic reviews are different from normal traditional literature reviews, they use systematic methods in identifying, appraising and synthesis data from research studies to answer questions of practitioners, patients and policy makers) called the Cochrane Collaboration. I got involved in doing systematic reviews but also learned about doing research on scientific methods! (will tell you more it this week :)) I became the leader of coordinating these activities in developing countries for two years. Afterwards, I moved to Germany for three years working in an institute called IQWiG (translated as Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care) and studying a MSc in University of London at the same time). I worked as a research associate looking at the quality of research and writing reports that informed what will be published as evidence based health information for the German public on along with doing methodological research projects. In 2011, I was offered a position in UK that combined my two expertise and became the Clinical Lecturer in Evidence Based Dentistry in Plymouth University Peninsula School of Medicine and Dentistry (PUPSMD). I teach students how to critical look at research to inform their clinical decision making and also involved in several research projects. The two projects that are near my heart are these ones:

(a) Cochrane Agenda and Priority Setting Methods Group: This is an initiative that I have founded in Nov 2011 and am very passionate about. During the different roles that I had, it really bothered me that there are some important areas that no one does research on and there are other areas that lots of bad quality of research is done. I am keen to understand how organisations, researchers and funders make decisions what research is most important to be conducted and what are the consequences of these decisions. I am also keen to learn what role practitioners, members of public, policy makers can/should have a role in finding and prioritising important research questions.  

(b) Cognovo project: I am a co-investigator on this project EU – Plymouth University funded trans-disciplinary project. We have 26 PhD students in the project working on creativity and cognition from different angles, science, humanities and art. I am co-supervising two PhD students on this project, one is an artist and one is a psychologists. 

 Singapore colloquium - Mona

Why/How did you end up in science?

 If you asked me when I was five what I want to do when I grow up, my answer would have been a Scientist. When I finished high school, it seemed the right decision to study dentistry. I was absolutely frustrated on the quality of research in dentistry and how they are used to inform decision making. It didn’t took me long to realise that I wanted to go back to doing scientific work. I was able to find jobs that give me the opportunity to continue studying and doing research. However, I had a love to maths and physics (especially astrophysics) as a high school student and couldn’t let it go totally so I am also a BSc student in Astronomy with UCLAN along with my job (I tweet as @astro_mona).


Why did you choose your current field/what keeps you there?

I don’t follow a standard career path. My career was shaped by a mixture where my curiosity took me and where the opportunities were. I hope that I will continue to do this as long as I can. I am involved in a wide raven of projects, I work with colleagues in USA on how certain research organisations work maps across the global burden of disease; I work with colleagues in psychology school on decision making and image perception; I recently work with someone on a space medicine project; the list continues 🙂


Do you have any interesting external/extracurricular obligations?

I am the trustees of an international organisation called the Cochrane Collaboration that is dedicated to conduct systematic reviews to inform decision making in health care. It is an organisation with more than 20,000 researchers, patients and clinicians involved and 100 of established groups in different countries around the world. I am also a member of the methods board where we discuss and work on developing new scientific methods to answer research questions. 


Any interesting hobbies you’d like to share?

I can’t believe that it took me so long to say this. I am a pilot! I hold a private pilot license and an absolute aviation enthusiastic. I mostly fly a PA28 but also flown Cessna152, Robin DR200, Grobin 115. I fly from Exeter airport and am a member of Aviation Southwest flight club. If you follow me on twitter, you would know I can’t stop sending photos about flying. One of my dreams is that I want to fly around the world and become an earth rounder (no Iranian woman has ever done that – sadly there is not a lot of Iranian female pilots out there). I also paint and draw and sometimes end up decorating my lectures and presentations with my own drawings. You can see examples of it on my blog or a recent presentation I gave.

 Mona Photo 1


How would you describe your ideal day off? (Scientists are people too!)



Twitter crew, please arm the keyboards and cross check in preparation for take off. We hope you enjoy your week-long flight with Mona Nasser!

Flying Mona 2

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1 Response

  1. July 14, 2014

    […] Smiling wide and flying high – Mona Nasser joins Real Scientists […]

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