New awards for a BESTMEDGRAPE team member from Lebanon!


Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat, the director of the laboratory biodiversity and functional genomics at the Faculty of Science - Saint Joseph University of Beirut, one of BESTMEDGRAPE Lebanese partners, just won two new awards. In an interview with our website, she tells us more about it.

Chevalier de l’ordre des Palmes académiques

Magda has been recently awarded the prestigious title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes académiques by the French government - an order of knighthood of France for academics and cultural and educational figures. 

An award from the National Geographic Society

Magda received a grant from the National Geographic Society, to explore the endemic flora of Lebanon. Her project entitled “Restoring the luster of the rainbow goddess: Oncocyclus irises” is about the genetic exploration and conservation of the 7 endemic royal iris species present in Lebanon and classified as endangered or critically endangered. “As a National Geographic Explorer -2021, I will be studying the genetic diversity of these irises with the aim of taking adequate measures for their conservation”, she says.

For Magda, working in a domain where every single contribution counts and where there is a huge lack of awareness and effective initiatives, receiving awards and recognitions are an occasion for her to “speak out” and to shed more light on the importance of biodiversity conservation. 

She was nominated as an International Visitor Leadership Program “Face of Exchange” by The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State – 2020. In 2012, also she was nominated as “Outstanding Woman Scientist” and considered on the Women in Science Hall of Fame by the Program of U.S. Embassies and Consulates in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Moreover, Magda was awarded in 2008 by UNESCO-L’Oréal for “Women in Science” for the work on valorization and conservation of native Lebanese flora and for launching its first online database This database brings together all the floristic information available for Lebanon from morphology to genetics in a systematic and consistent way, making it accessible to a wide range of users. A high-quality tool shedding light on the rich diversity of Lebanese flora.

Being a scientist in a country with ongoing crises!

While being a scientist could be challenging for a woman, in this case being Lebanese is the real challenge for Magda. In her opinion, doing science is a challenge in the context of political turmoil,  social unrest, and economic crisis... Conserving plants is a double challenge amid these overlapping crises that have exacerbated people’s vulnerability and pushed thousands of Lebanese in addition to displaced people into poverty.


“My role in BESTMEDGRAPE project falls within the characterization of native grape varieties. Native natural resources and well-applied technology lead to economic development and creating business opportunities” she explains” and she added: “If we didn’t have these resources, we couldn’t have invented them! So, conserving our natural heritage is granting us a valued capital for future opportunities. My National Geographic grant will bring international attention to a national treasure for which we hold responsibility and their conservation with the help of local communities”.

And finally, Magda expresses her hope that this success story will encourage others to join the species conservation race against time.