Hi Abdoulfatah, and thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. You are on track to complete the gSTAR program and earn the Data Science for Machine Learning for Biotechnology certificate, and you have already achieved a few milestones. Could you tell us about the research, internship and mentorship programs you have been accepted to?
I was chosen to participate in the CAHSI LOCAL REU program, which allows me to work with a faculty member on a research project. My assigned supervisor is Dr. Aakash Gautam, and I will be working alongside two other students, one of whom is a graduate student and the other an undergraduate. Our focus of study is on an organization that assists women who have been victimized. Our main goal is to provide assistance to the organization and create a framework that can aid its functioning. Currently, we are in the initial phase of our research, where we are brainstorming ideas.
I have also been selected to the VIR STEM Mentorship Program, which aims to assist STEM students in developing the future leaders of life sciences. As part of the program, I have paired with a mentor, Dr. Jake Ang, who has five years of experience in the biotech industry.
As result of my exposure to the field of data science and machine learning, I have developed a strong interest in this area. I am planning pursuing graduate school in this field. Thanks to the program, I had the opportunity to meet scientists and professors who are eager to assist us as STEM students.
How would you describe your journey through the PINC/gSTAR program, what challenges have you encountered and how did you overcome them? Do you have any advice for students who are considering joining the program?
I started the PINC/gSTAR program during a time when I felt lost and uncertain about my computer science major. I was unsure of which direction to take and lacked a clear focus of my path. The PINC/gSTAR program opens another door with an opportunity to a new area of study and introduced me to the field of data science and machine learning. This was an unexpected discovery, as I had never considered this field before, but it piqued my interest and opened up new avenues of learning for me. As result of my exposure to the field of data science and machine learning, I have developed a strong interest in this area. I am planning pursuing graduate school in this field. Thanks to the program, I had the opportunity to meet scientists and professors who are eager to assist us as STEM students. For instance, Dr. Ilmi Yoon is one of the most outstanding professors I have had the privilege of learning from. She possesses a unique teaching a style that involves simplifying complex material for us to understand easily. She has a patience and persistence in her approach, repeating the concepts until we fully understood them. Moreover, her motivation and support gave us the confidence to begin the semester with the right mindset.
There are some challenges for students who don't have a background in coding. We have a mentor who assists us with assignments and projects on a weekly basis, making them more manageable. Personally, I found all the classes in the PINC/gSTAR program enjoyable, there is always something new to learn. However, sometimes I have a hard time following biology modules, but I always ask questions and study the material before I come to the class. That helps me to at least familiarize myself with the terminology of biology.
Whenever I come across computer science students who are not aware of the gSTAR program, I always encourage them to apply for the certificate program. I share the link to the program's page and provide an explanation of what it's all about, because I know there are a lot of computer science students who are the same as me before I started the program, but they may be hesitant to take on extra classes. To the students who are considering joining the program, it's okay to take a chance and explore the program, trying out the program does not hurt and can provide valuable insights. You might discover a new interest; you will never know until you try. I would tell the student to take advantage of what the program has to offer and speak to current students who have been a part of the program to gain a better understanding.
I am thankful to have been selected as a Gen-PINC scholarship recipient, as the scholarship has enabled me to concentrate on my studies without financial worries.
Of all the topics covered in the gSTAR curriculum, what has been your favorite/most interesting and why?
The most interesting topic I have come across is the drug discovery pipeline. I have no idea that the process of developing and approving a new drug could take a decade or longer. We all purchase medications from pharmacies, we are blind to the process behind their creation. This made me think and appreciate the scientists and researchers who dedicate themselves to discovering new drugs and helping those in need.
You are also a Gen-PINC scholarship recipient, how has the program influenced your academic/professional path?
I am thankful to have been selected as a Gen-PINC scholarship recipient, as the scholarship has enabled me to concentrate on my studies without financial worries. The program has facilitated my professional growth and aided in my discovery of an industry that I was blind to.
One last question, what plans do you have post-graduation and what are your career goals?
I don’t want to stop my journey here, I want to strive to achieve greater accomplishments and set loftier goals, see what I can do. I want to get a master's at SFSU and then pursue a PhD in Bioinformatics at UCSF.