• Graduation Year: 2016

Ghanwa Khawaja

Major: Biological Sciences

Why did you choose Biological Sciences as your major?

My interest in cancer research played a major role in choosing my major.

What did you like most about it?

The thing I liked most about this major is that I had a large pool of upper level electives to choose from. While most majors at Rutgers require a specific set of mandatory electives, Biological Sciences allowed me the flexibility to pick and choose any upper level course to gain a basic understanding of the advanced material. This way I explored a lot more subjects in biology (cancer, immunology, cell biology, microbiology, biochemistry) than I could have if I had chosen any other major in the Division of Life Sciences.

What is your current position, what do you, and what do you enjoy most about it?

I am a full-time research fellow in Cancer Research Training Program (IRTA/CRTA) at National Cancer Institute (NCI) of National Institutes of Health (NIH). The part I enjoy the most about this experience is the hands-on training in the experiments involving bone marrow transplant, preparation of new chemotherapeutic drugs, and injection of these compounds in research subjects with myelodysplastic syndromes.

What was your first job after Rutgers and how did you get it?

Being an IRTA/CRTA at NCI, NIH mentioned in the previous question is my first job after Rutgers. I secured this job by demonstrating an extensive prior experience in cancer research in an immunology lab at Rutgers where I studied B-cell lymphoma in TRAF3 deficient mice. I did my senior thesis on this project and submitted my application, along with outstanding letters of recommendation from research faculty at Rutgers, to NIH in the fall of my senior year.

How did you move from that first job to your current position?

I have not moved from my first job yet. I will be starting medical school in fall 2018.

Looking back, what classes or experiences at Rutgers would you point to as contributing to your successes?

Public speaking is one of the many classes that contributed to my success. It helped me master the skill of developing a coherent thought process which I believe helped me in writing my personal statement and secondary application essays of medical schools. Moreover, being a tutor for a couple of years refined my leadership skills. In addition to that, the research opportunities provided to me by Rutgers helped me succeed in my ambition to find a research-based job at world’s leading institute of biomedical research.

What advice do you have for our current Arts and Sciences students?

Rutgers has more (hidden) resources than you can imagine in every field of life. Maximize your efforts to utilize them! And relax! You have come this far. You will be just fine!


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