CAIRO, Jan 23, 2012 (AFP) - Saad al-Katatni, who was elected as speaker of Egypt's first post-revolution parliament on Monday, is a biologist and longtime leading member of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood.

The 59-year-old botany professor was elected as a member of parliament for the province of Minya, south of Cairo, in the first elections since a popular uprising ousted veteran president Hosni Mubarak.

Katatni faces the tough task of steering the People's Assembly, or lower house, through a crucial phase, although its exact function still remains unclear.

"We want to build a new Egypt, a constitutional, democratic and modern Egypt," pledged the parliamentarian, a prayer bump marked on his forehead.

Reputed to be a slick operator, Katatni is a seasoned politician who served as the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc between 2005 and 2010.

He had run as an independent at a time when Islamist movements could not field candidates directly.

He was then elected in 2010 to the Shura Council, the upper house of parliament which has a consultative role.

Mubarak's downfall catapulted the Muslim Brotherhood to the forefront of politics, allowing the long-banned movement to form the Freedom and Justice Party, which Katatni was chosen to set up.

In efforts to reach out to the country's eight million-strong Christian community, Katatni was part of a delegation of senior Brotherhood leaders who visited Coptic Pope Shenuda III at the Abassiya Cathedral in central Cairo to offer greetings on Christmas.

Born on April 3, 1952, Katatni taught botany and microbiology at Minya University, south of Cairo.

Widely published in his field, Katatni a member of several professional associations and headed the scientists' syndicate from 1984-1993. (AFP)