In 1990, civil war was raging in Lebanon and Maher “Max” Noureddine was trying to cope with the danger and devastation around him. “You see, I was enrolled at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon at the time when the civil war in that country was intensifying by the day. My education and entire future were in limbo,” he says. That’s when he knew he had to find a more stable environment, just like many Lebanese of that time.
He applied to several colleges in the United States hoping to find a welcoming home away from home to pursue his dreams. In the summer of 1990, he received two acceptance letters – one from North Texas University and the other from RU. He was drawn to the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Plus, he heard his cousin Rola rave about her experiences as a student at RU. Choosing Radford changed his life in many ways.
Just prior to graduation, Noureddine completed his first set of experiments at RU that resulted in co-authorship in a well-respected journal. “I was hooked. The work involved spiders and their mating habits. People usually think that spiders build webs to catch insects, which is very true. Spiders are brilliant in many other ways. They "pluck" their webs, turning them into a complex string instrument that can propagate information to mates and enemies. Dr. Fred Singer was the Principal Investigator on the project. We called him ‘spider man.’ He was and still is an inspiration. Dr. Judy Niehaus was another excellent teacher and a big inspiration to me. Her course in non-vascular plants was my favorite. It taught me many skills, including the identification of edible mushrooms, something that I continue to practice today,” he adds.
After graduation in 1993, Noureddine took a year to work prior to completing a Master of Science degree program in molecular biology at UNC-Greensboro and then a Ph.D. in molecular genetics at UNC-Chapel Hill. He then began researching neurodegenerative disease at Duke University Medical Center as a fellow. His research focused on understanding the links between genetic factors and disease risk. He then joined the National Institute of Health in Research Triangle Park, N.C., to study cancer risk and environmental factors.
Next, he served as Chief Scientific Officer at Though Leader Select, LLC. And in 2010, he created an educational nonprofit organization called the Institute for Advanced Career Development (IACD). He and his institute are meeting the need for educational scientific resources for the community. “I think we all agree that forensic DNA evidence has revolutionized criminal investigations. Yet, there are many educational gaps that exist in that field, gaps that impact the real moving parts of our justice system, from jury, to judges, to attorneys on the prosecution and defense sides. The public opinion and psyche have been impacted by the ‘CSI Effect’. Although reliable under many circumstances, forensic DNA evidence has many limitations that must be respected and understood,” says Noureddine.
In early 2011, he began a consulting company called ForensiGen in Hillsborough, N.C., to continue his consulting work on criminal and civil cases in the hope of making a positive impact on this field. His company also conducts research including a project at the historic Harper House in Bentonville, N.C. Harper House served as the Union army’s XIV Corps hospital during the three-day battle of Bentonville. Noureddine is analyzing wood from the floors to analyze the content of suspected blood stains.
Next month, Noureddine will be visiting the college as a member of the CSAT Alumni Advisory Council.
Learn more about his work and contributions to the field of forensics.