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Back-up plan brings biochemistry major to ASU


Adwa Alhatlan

Biochemistry grad Adwa Alhatlan.

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December 06, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates

Adwa Alhatlan loves biology and chemistry and made plans to major in medicine with hopes of possibly becoming a surgeon one day.

Moving from Saudi Arabia to London, Alhatlan set out to pursue her pre-med studies on a scholarship. Only shortly thereafter she found out she needed to make a back-up plan in order to pursue her academics on her scholarship at another university.

Little did she know her plan B would bring her to ASU by way of Washington State. It took a fair amount of convincing from her friend attending Arizona State University, but Alhatlan made the decision to transfer from Washington to ASU to get her degree in biochemistry.

“Transferring to ASU was challenging, but it had so many opportunities for my education and to be independent,” Alhatlan said. “In the end I’m glad I did.”

While at ASU, Alhatlan was a student intern in the Science is Fun with Professor James Klemaszewski. Through Science is Fun, Alhatlan gave hands-on demonstrations during Homecoming, hosted local high school science classes visiting the ASU campus and participated in local community events. Alhatlan said this class was a lot fun to interact with kids and show them science experiments.

"Adwa was an excellent intern in ASU Science is Fun outreach program this fall," said Professor James Klemaszewski, School of Molecular Sciences instructor. "Not only did she do a great job with teaching and communicating science to high-school students, she also made the most of the opportunity and gave them great advice about college and being a student at ASU."

Alhatlan took a Earth Systems Engineering and Management class with Professor's  Braden Allenby amd Bruce Marsh to gain perspective on real life situations and expand her world view. Within this course she found not only help and support from her professors, but they encouraged her to reach her full potential.    

“Adwa did very well in our class, receiving one of only six A+ grades, with an excellent consultant’s report, which is the main project of the class,” said Professor Braden Allenby, President's Professor in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. “(She was) an excellent student, and a pleasure to have in class.”

Bruce Marsh, Professor of Practice in the School of Earth Sciences and Engineering  added, "Adwa is a bright engineer who scored an A+ in CEE400.  She works extra hard to stay on track and met every deadline while overcoming some challenges this semester to find victory.  She is destined to be a great engineer.  Sparky is so proud!"  

After graduation plans are not made as of yet, and that’s okay with Alhatlan. Sometimes it’s just best to not plan and see where life takes you.

Alhatlan took a few moments to share her experience here at ASU and offer some advice to students.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)

Answer: I actually wanted medicine as major and started to my pre-med in London. Due to my scholarship, my major was not accepted there and I wanted to have a plan B to medical school. I love chemistry and biology. I realized then that that could be my major.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I learned that using my opportunities would help me grow in my education and also in myself. Joining clubs, study groups, working, and volunteering are very great in building your knowledge and your character.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I know a lot of the students here, and my friend convinced me into going to ASU.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Professor’s Marsh and Allenby. Their CEE 400 course not only taught me about engineering, but also lifetime situations. They relate their course with things that could help you in your job, how to converse with people, and many other things.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Major in what you find interesting, and use your opportunities to expand your experiences.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I like to study in a library, it makes me focus on finishing my tasks especially when I am alone. To meet friends, I always like to explore a new place. The campus is so beautiful to choose a favorite spot.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I still don't know, but that is okay. I will see where life takes me. I may continue med school, I may want to have my masters, or I may just want to start working.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would provide a home for every person that couldn't afford one. 

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