Opportunity Arises, and Curiosity Meets Passion

Tanzila is an alumna from the inaugural Applied Research Innovations in Science and Engineering (ARISE) cohort in summer 2013. She joined Professor Rastislav Levicky‘s Bio-interfacial Engineering and Diagnostics lab where PhD candidate Ursula Koniges was her mentor. As a high school student, she contemplated chemical engineering studies in college. After a successful summer with ARISE, she kept in touch with Ursula and developed greater interest in engineering and research. This Fall, she will join NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering‘s Class of 2018. We asked Tanzila to tell her story. DSC_5747B“It’s been a bit more than a year since I first leaped into the scientific world of research and professional innovation through a program that fundamentally gave me the courage to brave the scientific community and find incredible opportunities post-completion of the program. That program was ARISE. During the summer of 2013, I spent eight incredible weeks running real experiments using real (very expensive) lab equipment, interacting with highly intelligent and prestigious individuals, and developing an incredibly distinct resume. The experience of working in Dr. Rastislav Levicky’s lab under the guidance of Ursula Koniges has allowed me to flesh out my interests in a field I was only mildly contemplating: chemical engineering.

Tanzila Rahman, center (ARISE class of 2013, NYU Engineering class of 2018) with, from left, Paulina and Edward (ARISE class of 2014), Prof. Rasti Levicky, Kip Daly (ARISE class of 2013) and ARISE mentor Ursula Koniges (PhD Candidate, Chemical and Biological Engineering).

Throughout six weeks of the program, when we (my lab partner Kip and I) were actively working in the lab, I realized how much I liked the field. Ursula’s huge undergraduate textbooks with their fancy jargon only intrigued me further. I wanted to learn more about these symbols and structures which I vaguely recognized from Regents chemistry years earlier. Furthermore, the kind and welcoming atmosphere in the Center for K12 STEM Education office and the lab only helped me realize how much I loved NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering in general. It made me realize I would love to go to a school like the NYU School of Engineering, where the close quarters and elevators ensures that everyone at least knows each others faces. IMG_0496 (1)I made many friends this way, starting with the other students that were a part of ARISE 2013. I also came to befriend not only my mentor, but also the other PhD and undergraduate students in the labs on the 8th

floor. Even Professor Levicky was no longer a person I felt intimidated by (it also helped that he was one of the nicest Professors I ever met, and I’ve met a lot from my time taking classes at Columbia University). On the last day of ARISE, after everyone was done giving their presentation and we were munching on our last lunch together, I felt quite sad. I remember that feeling of emptiness, mulling at the fact I might never work with these people again. How wrong was I. I kept in contact with my mentor Ursula all throughout the school year and continued to badger her. My lab partner Kip has also become a friend. Ursula and Kip both also wrote me recommendations for college: I couldn’t appreciate that favor enough. On March 10th 2014, nearly a month before admission decisions were formally announced, I was sent an email saying I received admission to the incoming class of 2018. The email also invited me to attend NYU School of Engineering’s Women in Engineering, Science and Technology symposium. I was ecstatic, especially since I later found out that my undergraduate tuition and books would be paid for. So, I’ll be majoring in Chemical and Bio-molecular Engineering come fall. In April 2014, I was even given the opportunity to go back to the lab during my spring break! I was able to partake in several talks and events hosted at the NYU School of Engineering’s Brooklyn campus and the Washington Square campus. What a treat that was! Ursula plays such an integral role in my life that I had to have her at my high school graduation–not only did she attend, but she also gave me an audio book of Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. As the title suggests, it is a book all about how things perceived as weakness are actually strengths, such as women in the STEM fields. Not only is Ursula a source of awe-inciting inspiration, wisdom and grace, she helps me build on my aspirations. In fact, this summer, Kip, Ursula and I are preparing for a bio-molecular design competition (BioMod) for college students in the fall!

tanzila jumping1

Excited about chemical engineering.

It’s kind of amazing, looking back at how much my life has progressed. I am eternally grateful to the ARISE program, the Center for K12 STEM Education, my friends in the lab, and my opportunity to continue as an actual student at the NYU School of Engineering. It’s the place that helped me realize a passion.”