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Vol. 29 No. 2
March-April 2007

Chemistry in Jordan

Following the addition in 2005 of the Jordanian Chemical Society (JCS) as a National Adhering Organization to IUPAC, CI invited the president of the JCS to present the state of chemistry in Jordan. As the JCS is preparing to hold a major international conference this coming June in Petra, the timing seemed most opportune for CI readers to learn more.

by Sultan Abu-Orabi

The population of Jordan, a small country in the Middle East, has increased rapidly in the last half-century, growing from about 250000 in 1930 to 6 million in 2005. The explosive population growth was due to an influx of Palestinians after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and more recently the immigration of people from neighboring countries due to the Gulf and Iraq Wars. With a total area of 89 000-square kilometers, Jordan has scarce sources of water and no oil.

The development of Jordan’s educational system can only be described as dramatic. Starting from almost nothing in the early 1920s, Jordan has forged a comprehensive, high-quality system to develop the human capital of its citizens. As a result, the rapid spread of facilities enabled citizens in poor and remote areas to gain access to education. The University of Jordan, located west of Amman, was established with 260 students and 15 faculty members in 1962. Consequently, the first chemistry department started at the University of Jordan with about 20 students in 1965.

Currently, access to basic education in Jordan is emphasized in all the country’s development plans. The government has, as a matter of policy, provided a school to every village and community with 10 or more school-age children. In 2006, there were 2787 government schools, 1493 private schools, 48 community colleges, and 28 state and private universities. Almost half of these universities award Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science degrees in chemistry. Only the University of Jordan awards Ph.D.s in chemistry. In Jordan, chemistry is thought of as the core of the basic fields of science. Therefore, we have more than 1 000 graduates in chemistry yearly.

It is estimated that more than 500 Jordanians have Ph.D.s in chemistry, over a thousand have Masters degrees, and more than 5 000 have bachelor’s degrees. Fortunately, many of these individuals are able to secure jobs in academia or industry in Jordan.

In fact, Jordan has invested billions of dollars in pharmaceutical and chemical factories. More than 20 pharmaceutical companies produce drugs and medical products, approximately 80 percent of which are exported to U.S., Canadian, European, Asian, and African markets. Additionally, Jordan exports phosphate, potash, and many fertilizing products all over the world. One of the largest operations is the Arab Potash Company, which extracts many products from the Dead Sea, including potash.

Arab Potash Company, Safi Jordan. Photo from Aalborg Engineering A/S, Denmark.

Established in 1976, the Jordanian Chemical Society is the umbrella organization for all chemists in Jordan. This society has more than 500 active members from universities, chemical companies, and high schools. The Jordanian Chemical Society is among the founders of the Arab Union of Chemists, which includes 15 Arab countries. In addition, it is an active member of the Federation of Asian Chemical Societies.

In Jordan, we are proud of the progress our chemistry society has accomplished during the last five years. Our policy has been to maintain a rate of holding one conference per year. The results of the studies and research papers that are presented at these conferences are invaluable to the chemical industry in Jordan and abroad. In 2003, 200 participants attended the 12th Arab Chemical Conference held in Amman. In addition, I was honored to be the president of the International Jordanian Chemical Conference held at Yarmouk University in 2002, in which more than 300 chemists from 40 countries participated.

The Jordanian Chemical Society, in partnership with Tafila Technical University, has been organizing the International Petra Conference in Chemistry to be held in June 2007. Petra, the conference locale, is a well-known historical city in Jordan, located about 220 kilometers south of Amman. More than 300 participants are expected from all over the world. See page 30 or <www.ttu.edu.jo/picc> for more information.

The “Treasury” at Petra, Jordan, site of an international chemistry conference to be held in June 2007.

Additionally, the society has been working with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Jordan to launch the Jordan Journal of Chemistry, which is the first international journal for publishing chemistry papers and articles in Jordan; see <www.jjc.yu.edu.jo>.

The Jordanian Chemical Society has participated in many international conferences, scientific meetings, and events. It played an influential role in the last Malta I and Malta II meetings: Frontiers of Chemical Sciences Research and Education in the Middle East, which were organized by the American Chemical Society, IUPAC, UK’s Royal Society of Chemistry, and the German Chemical Society. (see May-June 2004 CI, p. 7 and Mar-Apr 2006 CI, p. 6)

Many international institutions have acknowledged members of our society; some of whom have received awards such as the Alexander Von Humboldt, DAAD Fellowship (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst), Fulbright Scholarship, and Shuman Award.

We look forward to further collaboration of our society and our associates with the IUPAC organization.

www.jorchem.com

Professor Sultan Abu-Orabi <abuorabi@excite.com> has been president of the JCS since 2001 and is also president of Tafila Technical University.


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