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Graduate student defies statistics as a 2019 Forbes Under 30 Scholar

Dean Jelena Kovačević and Iqra Shaikh

Dean Jelena Kovačević and Iqra Shaikh, a master’s student in computer engineering named a 2019 Forbes' Under 30 Scholar for her exceptional essay about coming to Tandon.

Forbes bills its Under 30 Summit as the world's greatest event for young leaders, founders, investors, and creators. This year, Tandon student Iqra Shaikh will have a chance to judge for herself thanks to being named a 2019 Under 30 Scholar, an honor bestowed upon just a few exceptional students from across the country.  

A master’s student majoring in computer engineering who also works with NYU IT’s High-Performance Computing group, Iqra won the attention of judges at Forbes with a heartfelt essay that detailed her journey to Tandon. With the illiteracy rate for Muslim women in her native India a staggering 42.7 percent, she explained, she feels lucky to have had the support of her parents in pursuing her education. “I think that the most valuable thing parents can give their daughters is freedom, and I am extremely blessed to have parents who agree,” she says. “Whether it was allowing me to travel alone for conferences in faraway cities or standing by me as I prepared to move to another country, they have always gone above and beyond.” 

She continues, “It is an intimidating yet liberating feeling to be representative of the gradually shifting mentality of Muslim parents, from the long-established and widely accepted mindset to one that encompasses independence and emancipation. I hope that all of this adds up for other Muslim girls in my community and elsewhere, and sets in motion, if not a paradigm shift, at least an increase in the literacy rate.”

Hard work, determination, and the strong support of her friends and roommates played a large role in Iqra's success. She has also been the recipient of the Grace Hopper Celebration Scholarship and the Nutanix Women in Technology Scholarship. She hopes that at the Forbes Summit, which will be held in Detroit in late October, she will meet others with goals similar to her own and be inspired by them. Inspiration will probably not be in short supply, since speakers at the Summit include such high-wattage figures as tennis legend Serena Williams, actress and activist Olivia Munn, NBA All-Star Kevin Durant, and Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer.

While she is looking forward to the event, Iqra is not waiting to act upon her goals. She has always been involved in STEM outreach, serving since coming to New York as a LinkedIn Campus Editor and Women in Data Science Ambassador. She has also been active in Tandon’s CrEST (Creativity in Engineering, Science and Technology) program and NYU’s GSTEM initiative, which strive to break down barriers and empower those who have been historically underrepresented in STEM fields. “I mentor a group of teenagers who are working on intensive research projects,” she explains. “The best part of this is the chance to interact with them, getting to know their thought processes and everyday experiences, along with sharing lessons that I have learned in my own STEM journey. I view this opportunity as a second chance to correct the mistakes of my younger self.”