For this ASU grad, the real joy is the journey, not the destination

Murtada al Mohsin

Murtada al Mohsin


Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

International student Murtada al Mohsin found his way to Arizona State University through the ASU Global Launch Intensive English Program in 2015. Mohsin received the King Abdullah Scholarship to study abroad at ASU and pursue a degree in chemistry. 

“I’m really grateful for King Abdullah Scholarship Program,” said Mohsin. “The scholarship helped me financially — taking care of the college tuition and motivating me for receiving good grades and being recognized on the Dean’s Lists of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.”

Finding that passion in chemistry didn’t come right away. After high school graduation, Mohsin was uncertain about what major to choose in college. Initially, he thought about chemical engineering since it was one of the most popular majors back in his home country of Saudi Arabia. With limited schools and majors to choose from, it was Mohsin’s father who persuaded him to major in chemistry since it was closely related to chemical engineering. It also helped that chemistry is the least selected major in Saudi Arabia and sparked Mohsin’s interest.

Freshman year was a challenge for Mohsin as a new student. He struggled a bit in his first chemistry course, but this inspired him to not give up and rise to the challenge, eventually earning an A. This would be a defining moment: He realized how much he liked chemistry.

During his sophomore year with Professor Smitha Pallai, Mohsin found his passion in organic chemistry. Mohsin shared how he would visit her before class started and asked questions about the material and she would help explain the topics.

“I was delighted to learn about Murtada’s graduation announcement. Sylvia Earle once said that the best scientists and explorers have the attributes of kids,” said Pallai. “They ask questions and have a sense of wonder. I hope Murtada remains inquisitive and all his questions get answered!”

Mohsin transitioned into ASU by getting involved with campus activities and events. He joined the Sponsored Student Advisory Committee, which is a team of student volunteers who advise and assist the International Students and Scholars Center (ISSC) at ASU in regard to sponsored students' cultures, academic success, and professional development initiatives. In addition, when time allowed, Mohsin was involved with the Programming and Activities Board that plans activities and events in various areas of interest for ASU students. 

Murtada Mohsin and Sparky

This December Mohsin will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from the School of Molecular Sciences and looks forward to seeing where the next chapter takes him on this journey. 

QUESTION: You received a scholarship: How did this impact your education at ASU? Q:

ANSWER: I received a scholarship through the King Abdullah Scholarship Program. It provided me a valuable opportunity to study abroad at ASU and pursue a degree in chemistry. It also opened the doors for me to join some honor societies in the U.S., such as the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majoring in?

A: The beginning of freshman year was tough for me as a new student. I struggled with the first test in the chemistry class I enrolled in. During this first chemistry course, I remembered several things that I studied in high school. My professor told me that based on your result you will do great in your second chemistry course. That was the "aha" moment when I realized I really like chemistry and want to continue studying it. My passion about it also increased when I took organic chemistry courses, some of my favorite courses, my sophomore year.

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

A: One of the things that surprised me in the classroom was the huge number of students in the class. Over 400 students were in my sociology class in my freshman year. It was something new to be in a university with a large population of students. It was also amazing to meet many students from around the U.S. and across the world and learn about different cultures and diversities. Another thing was the big number of organizations and clubs available at ASU. The skills of scientific writing and how to write a research paper are some of the many things that I learned while at ASU.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I was not sure at the beginning about which state I would choose to study in when I applied for the scholarship. Some schools I was interested in attending were not available at that time. Arizona was on my list of schools and was available, so I ended up choosing ASU. I am grateful for the decision of choosing it and do not regret that. I found myself in a friendly community that welcomed and (was) ready to help international students. 

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

A: It can be hard to choose only one professor since I learned many lessons from many professors while at ASU. I would choose Steven Peterson, who taught the whole person health course. I learned a lot from his course. I enjoyed listening to his lectures and life advice that still resonate with me. He taught us, and repeated that several times, about the importance of taking care of ourselves as humans and not forgetting to have time of enjoyment for ourselves because we need that.

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

A: Enjoy your time as much as possible while at ASU. I learned that the real joy is in the journey, not the destination. Try to get involved on campus and make the most of your college experience. Many different events and meetings are offered by ASU on a weekly basis. Prioritize your tasks. School work and studying in advance for exams is still important. I suggest that the day before the exam should be for review and making sure you are ready for it. Do not forget to rest and get enough sleep. Make sure to manage your time wisely. Time management is essential in college.

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

A: The Tempe campus is beautiful! On long breaks, I usually go to the Noble Library to study, review for exams, or do homework. My favorite place to study was the silent study room. I also like the view of the area outside the Student Pavilion building at night with the string lights that connect the palm trees. I also like the view of the Old Main building and the fountain in front of it. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I would like to gain work experience from chemistry-related jobs before thinking about pursuing a master's degree.

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

A: If someone gave me $40 million to solve one problem, I would tackle life-threatening illnesses or the pollution of air, water and land that affect the human health and environment, or I would financially support students who cannot afford college tuition and have financial problems.

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