National Geographic Explorer and professor to inspire young scientists at international STEM event

October 24, 2019

Nizar Ibrahim speaks to students on the side of a mountain.University of Detroit Mercy Assistant Professor of Biology Nizar Ibrahim wants young people to know there’s still plenty left to explore and discover in the world of science. That will be one of the themes when the Detroit Mercy professor and world-renowned paleontologist speaks at the USA Science & Engineering Festival X-STEM Puerto Rico event on Oct. 25.

“When you’re learning about science in school, it often sounds like there’s not that much left to discover in the world,” Ibrahim said. “But of course, nothing could be further from the truth. There are still many, many things left to discover in the world and many areas left to explore.

“The Sahara Desert is a prime example, it’s a place that’s absolutely huge and there are so many places there that are completely unexplored,” he added. “That’s true for many other environments, whether it’s the deep sea or the rainforest.

“I want to make sure young people listening to the talk understand we are really just at the beginning of a new age of exploration. There are still many mysteries out there and many unexplored places.”

X-STEM Puerto Rico is an “Extreme” STEM symposium for high school students featuring interactive presentations by speakers who aim to empower and inspire kids about careers in STEM.

Ibrahim, who is a National Geographic Explorer, has gained worldwide fame for his discoveries in the Sahara Desert, which include the giant flying reptile Alanqa and the mysterious Spinosaurus, a sail-backed predatory dinosaur longer in body length than Tyrannosaurus rex.

He led an expedition to the Sahara over the summer and hopes to publish some of the team’s discoveries before the end of the year.

Ibrahim’s success is one reason he was asked to speak at an X-STEM event for the second time, but it’s just one part of his presentation to students.

“I don’t just talk about my research, but also my journey to becoming a scientist,” Ibrahim said. “I think it’s important for young people to see that scientists are just normal people, they weren’t born scientists. I think it’s important for them to know just because you’re not doing great in your school at the moment, it doesn’t mean you can’t become a scientist one day.

“Sometimes scientists aren’t geniuses at school and maybe they didn’t enjoy high school science, but they still became famous scientists. Those kinds of things are important, sharing your personal story and how you got to where you are now.”

Ibrahim said having the events in places like Puerto Rico, where students don’t have a lot of access to scientists and engineers, is important and a major reason he’s excited to present at the event.

“I think it’s really important that young people have role models in science and engineering,” Ibrahim said. “In some parts of the world, young people don’t have a lot of opportunities to connect with real-life scientists and engineers and hear their stories. This is a wonderful opportunity to get young people in Puerto Rico excited about science and engineering.”

The X-STEM event takes place at the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayaguez Campus. For more information about X-STEM, please visit

For more information about the University of Detroit Mercy’s College of Engineering & Science please visit:

— By Dave Pemberton. Follow Detroit Mercy on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and Instagram. Have a story idea? Let us know by submitting your idea.