Hayat Sindi’s career as a scientist began with a fib

…and that’s a good thing. Now the Saudi innovator is doing work that could save millions of lives in the developing world—and launching her own Mideast foundation.

Abigail Pesta in The Daily Beast:

ScreenHunter_02 Dec. 20 10.47Sindi, who dresses in a traditional headscarf but also in trendy heels, relishes the details of making her own way in science. It started with a fib to her family after her first year of college in Saudi Arabia.

Keen to continue her studies abroad, she told her father some good news: She had been accepted at a prestigious university in London. Her traditional Muslim father said it would tarnish the family name for a young woman to live overseas alone. “He told me, ‘Over my dead body,’” Sindi recalls. Still, she persuaded him, and off she went to England.

The truth is, she hadn’t been accepted at any university. When she landed in London as a teenager in 1991, she says, she spoke only Arabic, no English. “My first night there, I went to a youth hostel,” she says. “I was in an attic room. I panicked. I looked at my plane tickets—my father had bought a return ticket. I thought, I’ll go home tomorrow.” Instead she went to an Islamic cultural center and got a translator to help her meet with college officials. “They told me, ‘You’re crazy,’” she says. “I was naive. I thought they would just let me in.”

After a year spent cramming on English and studying to pass the “A-levels,” the U.K.’s college-admission courses, she got herself in to King’s College, where she graduated in 1995 with a degree in pharmacology. She went on to get a Ph.D. in biotechnology from Cambridge in 2001. She says her family didn’t learn about her lie until years later, when they were surprised to hear her mention it in a speech.

More here. [Thanks to Sughra Raza.]