She thrived in her three year degree at Saint Joseph University in Beirut, throwing herself into a strong cocktail of work and extra curriculars and when the time came for her to apply for a Masters, she was awarded a full scholarship. At the end of the first year of the program, an offer arrived from the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris providing full scholarships for students to do a Master’s there, with the possibility of receiving funding for a PhD. Joanne knew that in order to pursue her dreams of a career in the hard sciences, she’d need to leave Lebanon eventually due to the lack of funding at her university…but she hadn’t expected that time to come as soon as it did.
Aged 21, she’d never been out of the country before – and the prospect of leaving her home and family behind and rebuilding her life in a new country was a tough one. But Joanne knew this opportunity was too good to pass on – so when she was accepted onto the program at ENS she made the decision to leave Lebanon and move to Paris. As it turned out the decision proved to be a truly life changing one – and not just from a career standpoint – because shortly after arriving in France, she met her fiancé and future husband, who would later encourage her to follow her dreams and take the plunge to start her own company.
At ENS, Joanne studied systems biology, using big data and bioinformatic tools to understand biological systems. This in turn led her on to her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, studying helicases, the essential molecular machines responsible for a large spectrum of diseases. While she thrived in academia, it didn’t take Joanne long to figure out that she wanted more. Just as her learning curve had flattened out back in Lebanon, it started to do so in her PhD and she started to look for other options as early as 8 months into the 4 year program. “I began to think that just being a scientist wasn’t enough for me” she says remembering the sudden shift in her mindset.