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Senior Spotlight: Faiz Alam

Biological Engineering Major Faiz Alam Discusses his Honors College Experience
Senior Spotlight: Faiz Alam

Image Credit: Zoë Williamson

Ogden Honors College Senior Faiz Alam, a native of Lafayette, is majoring in Biological Engineering and currently applying for the Rhodes and Gates-Cambridge Scholarships. He recently sat down with one of our reporters to discuss his experience as an Honors student.

Why did you choose LSU, and what drew you to the Ogden Honors College?

LSU was always in play for me. Then, when I was invited to Scholars Weekend and offered a Stamps scholarship, I had no doubt that I would be going there. As for the Honors College, that was just something that I always planned to do if I went to LSU. I am someone who won't be getting a job right out of college, so it will help me to have that extra stuff, like College Honors and a Senior Thesis, for whatever my graduate or post-grad plans would be.

Give me some background about your involvement with the Stamps program.

I do like to think that I use my scholarship to its fullest potential. The lab that I am working in with Dr. Monroe was through Stamps. I was able to go to a conference on Robotics when I was a Freshman at the Naval Academy. We have the Stamps convention every other year at Georgia Tech and that has always been an enriching experience. I was also able to use my enrichment fund money to study abroad in Edinburgh and London.

Can you tell me a little bit about what you're writing your thesis about?

I work in Dr. Monroe's lab in Biological engineering, and a lot of his work these days is with zebrafish. We research zebrafish because there are thousands of strains and lines, and they're a great model organism to investigate developmental biology of humans. Recently, researchers have been trying to find a good way to preserve the zebrafish sperm. Over the last few years, we made a device that got really good results for us. One of the major obstacles to overcome is that zebrafish sperm are only viable for 10-15 seconds and most of the current methods took 5-7 seconds to set up the analysis, but our device has the sample ready in less than a second. Building off of that, for my thesis, I plan on investigating a colorimetric test that will be a direct indicator of the motility of these sperm, avoiding the need to use complex microscopy and image processing equipment. Looking down the road, a nice application of this would be if farmers could use it for their livestock in resource poor environments where you don't have much access to expensive and sensitive computer equipment and labs. These farmers could just test the sample on the device and get a pretty good idea instantly if there is something suspect about the fertility of the livestock.

 What are your future plans?

After I graduate I plan on taking a gap year. I'm applying for the Rhodes and Gates-Cambridge scholarships, but I'm also looking at internships or volunteer opportunities. The goal is to go abroad for a year. After that, I'm planning on med school to obtain an MD/MPH.

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Do you think that writing a thesis will be valuable for your future plans?

For sure. My thesis will be on the first project I'm doing where I'm truly on my own. Having the experience of working completely independently for a thesis, especially as an undergrad, where I don't have the pressure of completing a grad school dissertation or having to publish as a professor — I think it's nice. I'm going to have the advice of great professors and advisors, which I might not have access to when I'm more on my own later in my career. It'll make me a lot more comfortable in the future to have this experience.

What are all the activities you are involved with on campus?

I'm in LASAL, which has been maybe the most influential thing I've done at LSU. The class I just came from is Dr. Babcock's and Dr. Davis’ education policy class. If you told me, as a Freshman, that I'd be sitting senior year taking a seminar on education policy, I wouldn't believe you. Being in LASAL and working with Dr. Babcock and Ms. Cindy, and taking these classes that are completely outside of my normal curriculum, like Louisiana History and Poverty in Louisiana, doing an internship at the Department of Health, and attending the Sunday at the Salons – where we bring in people who talk about different systemic issues in Louisiana — it's completely changed my perspective on what I think I should be getting out of college and how I think I should use my education to help society.

Do you have advice for any first year Ogden Honors College students or those considering joining the Honors College?

I think that if you have the ability to get into the Honors College, you should absolutely try it out. You're doing yourself a real disservice if you don't give it a shot and see all the resources you have available to you, all the faculty. Dr. Arms has essentially been my LSU mother. I have gone to her a countless number for advice and she always managed to help me out and guided me in the right direction. It's a relationship that I know I wouldn't get if I were outside of the Honors College. Dean Earle is great. He really has a great vision for what he wants the Honors College to be and I am excited to see what the Honors College will look like down the road. In terms of incoming Freshmen, I absolutely recommend LASAL. I think it's important to find one thing that's completely outside of your major. Do something completely different, and you will eventually find a way for it to complement your major. If I didn't do LASAL, I don't know where I'd be today. I think it's important not to look at college like a job training facility, but more as a place for individual growth. 

 

Article by Zoë Williamson, Ogden Honors College.