The Coral Symbiomics Lab
Red Sea Research Center
Division of Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering


Noura Zahran

Ph.D. Students


​I was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and was able to experience a diverse education between the educational system of Saudi Arabia and the United States. I became curious about how life worked, and how we are all similar but different! This led me to the field of genetics and trying to understand how each individual gene plays a role in the life or death of organisms. I started off my undergraduate studies at King Saud University, Riyadh, in the College of Applied Medical Sciences, where I was interested in genetics and their effect in heredity and transmission of diseases. After graduation, I worked in a Clinical Cytogenetics lab at King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center, Riyadh, where I helped diagnose diseases and leukemias using chromosomal analysis and molecular genetics techniques. It was these techniques that got me interested in pursuing my graduate studies in genetics. I then went on to Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, USA, where I got a masters with a double major in Medical Laboratory Sciences, and Molecular & Cell Biology.

With these degrees, I decided that I would like to pursue my PhD in a field that would help me give back to my country. This has led me to where I am now, PhD candidate in Bioscience in King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Where I learnt that just in our backyard, lies the Red Sea which holds a wealth of knowledge that is yet to be learnt. The coral reefs form structures that provide a diverse ecosystem that has many benefits some known and some waiting to be discovered. However, this ecosystem is in danger and we are needed to understand how we can help it.

Research Interests

​My PhD project focuses on the use of molecular genetic techniques to identify and understand genes and their role in the maintenance and success of the symbiotic relationship between corals and their dinoflagellate symbiont, Symbiodinium spp.. More specifically, I work on characterizing ammonium transporters from the Symbiodinium microadriaticum, to understand how Symbiodinium and their coral hosts survived for millions of years by becoming efficient in nutrient uptake in oceans that are limited in nutrients. 


  • Masters of Health Science in Medical Laboratory Science from Quinnipiac University (2010-2012)
  • Masters of Science in Molecular & Cell Biology from Quinnipiac University (2010-2012)​
  • ​Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Sciences from King Saud University (2001-2006)