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Ready to mentor ‘students like myself’

May 3, 2019
Kharimat Alatise standing in Goergen HallKharimat Alatise ’19 wants to be a professor and serve as a role model to first-generation and minority students. (University photo by J. Adam Fenster)

Making Their Mark is a Newscenter series of profiles celebrating members of Rochester’s graduating class of 2019.

Three questions

Favorite class? “Fluid Dynamics, taught by David Foster. I really enjoyed this class because I could imagine how fluid dynamics is applied to my everyday life. I also liked Biomaterials, taught by Catherine Kuo, because of the mixture between biology, chemistry, and materials.”

Favorite tradition? “All of the special weekends—FallFest, WinterFest, and SpringFest. I loved them because we received gifts. I have a Rochester pride sweater, and I’ve been waiting for it since my freshman year. It’s not going anywhere.”

Favorite spot on campus? “The Ruth Merrill Center in Wilson Commons. It’s the perfect place to get in a quick nap or finish up some work in a comfortable environment.”

Kharimat Alatise has known since middle school that she would attend college, but she never dreamed of the world awaiting after graduation.

“My parents came to America from Nigeria when my mother was pregnant with me,” the biomedical engineering major says. “No one in my family had ever gone to college, but my parents instilled in me that education would be my key to success.”

Mother and father knew best. Alatise became a McNair Scholar through the David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity, learning professional development and graduate school exam preparation. Perhaps most important of all, the once introverted Hartford, Connecticut, native became a confident woman with a limitless future. She joined the National Society of Black Engineers and Ma’Frisah West African dance group, became president of the Pi Beta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and served as a chemistry teaching assistant.

“I don’t know where I would be without the McNair program,” she says. “I certainly wouldn’t have gotten into research as an undergraduate. The Kearns Center has helped in ways I can’t imagine. The University is a place where you feel you can do anything.”

This fall, Alatise will head to Clemson University to pursue her master’s and doctorate degrees in biomedical engineering.

“I didn’t even know what BME was in high school,” she says. “But I thought, ‘I like math, I like science, I like medicine. How can I put these all together?’ I did a Google search and ‘biomedical engineering’ came up.”

At Clemson, Alatise will be a “scientist in training,” conducting research with the goal of becoming a professor.

“I want to mentor students like myself,” she says. “I’ve had many great professors, but none that look like me. I want to be a role model to first-generation and minority students.”

Alatise says her proud parents have literally been counting the days until Commencement, and she can’t wait to share the moment with them.

“As much as I deserve it, they deserve it too,” she says. “This degree is for my parents. The next one is for me.”

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