Marie Semaan :



Interview prepared by Faiz Kermani (faculty #104000)
Marie gives us some insights into how she first started volunteering for PEOI and some of the exciting projects she is currently involved with—as well as her future plans to help improve the accessibility to quality education worldwide.

Faiz: 1. Can you tell us a little about your professional background?
Marie: I am a Forensic DNA specialist and researcher based in Lebanon. I received my BSc. In forensic science and my MSc. in biotechnology from the American University of Science and Technology where I was appointed as a graduate assistant during my Masters. My duties included managing the simulated crime scene and the forensic practicum. I received a training in forensic science disciplines at the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office in Fort Worth, Texas. Moreover, I received my certification in International Criminal Law from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, The Hague. My research interests covered the challenges of forensic DNA mixture interpretation and the effect of consanguinity and endogamy on forensic DNA profiling particularly on DNA mixtures in the Lebanese population. This research covered the statistical interpretation of challenging mixed DNA traces using various DNA mixture expert software. My research was discussed and published at international platforms and journals. The latest publication was a case study in the Journal of Forensic Research entitled: “A mixed DNA profile controversy”. I have four years of experience teaching in schools and university and two years of experience in laboratory coordination and management.

Faiz: 2. How did you learn about PEOI, and what motivated you to get involved?
Marie: I applied to my first volunteering opportunity at PEOI through the United Nations Online Volunteers platform. As Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” believe that bringing my skills to help millions of disadvantaged students all over the world with a limited access to education is of utmost importance. Hopefully, all PEOI volunteers including me will be able to change the world in the near future. I’m privileged to be part of this organization.

Faiz: 3. What do you think is the most important work that PEOI does?
Marie: PEOI provides courses free of charge to help millions of disadvantaged students all over the world with a limited access to education. Gathering international experienced volunteers in a variety of fields to help in creating these courses is phenomenal. Personally I think that the most important aspect of PEOI’s work is offering a variety of introductory and advanced university courses translated in multiple languages to reach a wide range of students.

Faiz: 4. What projects are you involved with, and can you tell us a bit more about them?
Marie: I’m currently volunteering as the team leader working on the “CR121EN Introduction to Forensic Science” course. I was initially accepted to volunteer as a biology course author. Since PEOI encourages experienced volunteers to suggest and create courses in their area of expertise, they fully supported my suggestion in offering an introductory course in forensic science. This course introduces the students to the field of forensic science which is defined as the application of science to law. It provides an introduction to the application of each scientific discipline in solving crimes. It highlights on the scientific and legal aspect of crime scene investigation. Students will be introduced to the forensic science disciplines including DNA profiling, fingerprints, forensic toxicology, ballistics and tool mark impressions, crime scene investigation… This course will be a guide for students interested in specializing in the forensic science disciplines aiming to improve and strengthen this field in their own countries.

Faiz: 5. What other PEOI initiatives are you involved in?
Marie: I’m currently responsible for recruiting experienced volunteers with a background in forensic science, who are interested in helping millions of disadvantaged students all over the world. It is worth noting that it takes time and effort to develop course materials, case studies, assignments, summaries, discussions and test questions. Since “One hand cannot clap” and team effort is pivotal, we are seeking authors with a forensic science background to contribute to the “CR121EN Introduction to forensic science” course. Moreover, we are searching for potential donors sharing the same interest as PEOI in helping millions of disadvantaged students around the world and making education accessible to every student.

Faiz: 6. What do you think students can gain from PEOI?
Marie: "He who opens a school door, closes a prison" this famous saying by the French poet Victor Hugo summarizes my answer. Nowadays, if Hugo is witnessing the advancements in technology he would not have limited his quote to physical school doors. Online education platforms like PEOI are playing a crucial role in disseminating knowledge all over the world. It’s surprising how education affects individuals positively not only on a personal level but also on society in general. In fact, as a forensic scientist I find it interesting that education is associated with a reduced crime rate. Students will enjoy the variety of topics, levels and languages in courses offered at PEOI.

Faiz: 7. Why do you think that other professionals should volunteer with PEOI? How can they help and what can they gain from the experience?
Marie: Personally I find volunteering very satisfying. I like to communicate with like-minded volunteers who are willing to dedicate their time and effort, and share their knowledge to help disadvantaged students with limited access to educational resources. As I previously mentioned, it takes time and effort to develop courses, therefore team effort is critical. Volunteers can set their convenient working schedule to produce well researched course content. It’s very important to be knowledgeable, but what’s more important is being able to share your knowledge. Voluntary work helps you acquire a variety of skills on a personal level that your future employer could be looking for. Personally, working with PEOI encouraged me to dig deeper in the HTML language which is used to write all PEOI’s course pages.

Faiz: 8. Where can people find out more about PEOI and your course?
Marie: All information about PEOI is found on their website To find out more about the “CR121EN Introduction to forensic science course” click on the following link

Faiz: 9. Is there any other information you would like to share about your volunteering experience?
Marie: I’m proud to be part of this growing international team and I’m looking forward to developing more advanced courses in my area of expertise.

Faiz: 10. Are you involved in any other types of volunteering activities outside PEOI?
Marie: I participated in the digital memorial project with Act for the disappeared in Lebanon. This initiative aimed to reclaim the identities of the 17,000 missing persons during the civil war in Lebanon and reaffirm the right to know their fates and whereabouts.

Please bring your skills to help millions of disadvantaged students all over the world, who do not have access to traditional education because of where they live, time constraints or insufficient income. Thank you for your interest.

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