Goldwater Scholarship recipient and Barrett scholar pursues double major on way to career as researcher physician


Humza Zubair

Humza Zubair, junior biochemistry and biological sciences double-major in SMS and Barrett, The Honors College.

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Editor's note: This profile is part of a series of profiles showcasing students in the School of Molecular Sciences.

Humza Zubair is a junior double-majoring in biochemistry and biological sciences in Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences, School of Life Sciences and Barrett, The Honors College. He is also a recipient of the Goldwater Scholarship, the oldest national scholarship for undergraduates in math, science and engineering. Winning the scholarship is allowing Zubair to extend his studies one more year at ASU in preparation for applying to Medical Scientist Training Programs this fall.

“Winning the Goldwater Scholarship is an amazing honor,” Zubair said. “The scholarship affirms my abilities to be a medical scientist.”

Shortly after graduating high school and during his time at ASU, Zubair has done extensive research at the Barrow Neurological Institute and has presented his research at national and international research conferences. Some of his work has already been published in peer-reviewed journals.

In 2017, Zubair was also selected as an Amgen scholar to conduct research at the University of California, San Francisco. He worked in the lab of Evan Feinberg at UCSF, where he conducted research on the neurophysiology of the superior colliculus, a structure in the brain involved in visual reflexes. 

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

Question: When did you first realize that you wanted to study biochemistry?

Answer: I have always wanted to study medicine ever since I was a child. When applying to ASU, I felt that the medicinal biochemistry major would enable me to understand medicine at a basic molecular level and would provide me the foundation to better understand drug interactions in patients in the future as a researcher and as a physician.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I have lived in Tempe my entire life, with ASU as my backyard hometown school, so choosing ASU was a natural choice for me. In addition, I was impressed by ASU’s innovative educational and research opportunities.

Q: What research opportunities have you had as a student here, and can you describe your research experience?

A: After high school, I started working with Dr. Irina Beloozerova at the Barrow Neurological Institute, an affiliate of Arizona State University, where I study the control of visually guided walking. Through my research, I have published two first-authored research publications in peer-reviewed journals, with a third in final editing stages. I also have presented my research at five national and international research conferences in poster form.

Q: What has earning the Goldwater Scholarship meant to you, and how will it help you succeed?

A: As a Tempe native, it is an amazing privilege to represent ASU, my hometown school, in a national competition. This scholarship has enabled me to stay in ASU for another year, giving me the opportunity to further strengthen my personal and academic growth, before entering my graduate studies.

Q: Why is it important that the school provide scholarships or awards for its majors?

A: By providing scholarships and awards to students, students can concentrate on academics and research rather than worrying about finances. For undergraduate students, it can be challenging to find a paid research or teaching assistantship. With department scholarships, students can enhance their knowledge in their major and excel.

Q: What are your academic and career plans?

A: I aspire to enroll in a medical scientist training program (MD/PhD) where I will enhance knowledge of biomedical sciences and medicine.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to students interested in coming to ASU to study chemistry or biochemistry?

A: I would suggest students not overload themselves from the beginning. Managing the transition from high school to college, which is always tough, is key to success in college and beyond. Focus on getting good grades your first two years so that you do not feel under too much pressure later on as an undergraduate. Also, try to take a mixed set of classes to diversify your experiences and gain breadth of knowledge.

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