Mohammad Nsour, Associate Professor

Mohammad received his DCL from the Faculty of Law in 2009. His thesis research explored the legal understanding of the role of regionalism in the multilateral trade regime. Today, he is an Associate Professor at the United Arab Emirates University and at the University of Jordan.

Q: What made you originally interested in doing a PhD in Law? 

My father had a very successful career as a lawyer, as a judge, and as a minister , so he planted in me the interest in law. I felt it was something for me, something I could do, and something I was interested in doing. It has been a goal for me since early childhood. 

Q: While you were in the program, what kind of support did you receive, financial or otherwise?

I was very very lucky because, when I moved to Canada in early 2004, I had some financial support from my family, but most of the support I got was from a research grant that was given to my supervisor. Through this grant, I was able to fund my studies, live a comfortable life, and do research, study, and teach. 

Q: Did you have a close relationship with your supervisor then?

I still have a very good relationship with him. His name is Professor Armand de Mestral and he taught at McGill for over 35 years. He retired just a few years ago. I worked for him for four years as a research assistant and as a supervisee, and I am still in touch with him. I was fortunate enough to be able to invite him to Jordan for a teaching mission in 2013, so I feel that I was very lucky to be able to give him back a bit of what he had given me. 

I was also very blessed to have the support of other professors like the late Patrick Glenn. He passed away a few years ago but I can never forget him. He supported me in a very difficult time. Professor Shauna Van Praagh also stood with me on very difficult occasions as well. I also had support from staff like Libby Parker, who is an administrative coordinator in the Faculty of Law and Kristina Kotoulas who was at the university graduate office. 

Q: What was the transition like for you going from your PhD to your current job?

I moved to academia right away. I got a job at the university of Jordan and simultaneously started to work as a lawyer at the largest law firm in Jordan—in Jordan you can do both—and I kept teaching. In one year, I was able to leave that law firm and start my own office. I have started my own consultancy, working with various NGOs such as the EU, the WHO, the UN and other foreign governments. I am now a conciliator on the World Bank roster as well.  

Q: What did you find challenging after graduating?

The first challenge that I had—actually, that I still have—is the culture shock moving from North America to the Middle East and vice versa. 

Q: How do you split your time now as a professor? 

When you work as a professor, you need to do three things: you need to do research, you need to teach, and you need to do community service, i.e. participate in committees or administration. Now, it is up to you how you divide those three subsections. I always prefer to dedicate more time to research, which is why I got a prize for the best researcher in the faculty. 

Q: Speaking of teaching, did you have opportunities to teach during your PhD? 

At the time, we had an exceptional human being as the associate Dean for graduate studies, Marie-Claude Prémont. She was a super person, and she gave an opportunity to all PhD students to teach, and asked us to submit proposals and I was chosen. 

It was an exceptional experience. Of course, it’s a magnificent opportunity for anybody to teach at McGill, but you have to meet that standard. 

Q: How did all that preparation and time spent on teaching impact how quickly you were able to finish your PhD? 

While I was teaching at McGill I couldn’t do anything else. It was like the stress of an oral examination every time, but instead of one examiner, I had many examiners. Students have their laptops and they can Google anything you say. Of course, it held me back in my doctoral work for a little while, but it was definitely worth it. 

Q: Was there anything about the PhD itself that was particularly challenging? 

It took me six years to finish my PhD, which is not bad. I wish I could have done it in a shorter time, but I don’t have any regrets at all. Every minute I spent there was very much worth it. I’m very proud of my experience there. I feel very blessed to have been accepted at McGill. 

Many thanks to Mohammad for sharing his PhD narrative! You can find out more about him on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

This interview took place in July 2020. Interviews are edited by the TRaCE McGill Editorial team for length and clarity before publication.