Maria Khan (’21), like most girls growing up in Pakistan, did not expect that college would be in her future. From an early age, she struggled to get a valuable education in a good area of town. Ultimately, she and her family left for the United States to find better opportunities.
At age 12, Khan began seventh grade in America, and although she was bullied because she didn’t speak English and was “different” from her classmates, she had the drive to succeed, knowing she was fortunate to have the chance to study.
Today, Khan is a Biology and Pre-Med Major at Cabrini with a 3.95 GPA. The Philadelphia Education Fund, an organization that helps prepare students for college, recognized her with its inaugural Shining Star Award during a luncheon at the Union League in June.
Heavily involved with the Philadelphia Education Fund programs, Khan often volunteers to speak to other young people about her experience coming from Pakistan to the U.S., to give advice on why it is important to pursue education, and even to help students fill out college forms like the FASFA. Her commitment to helping others has led her to obtain multiple scholarships through the Fund, which have supported her college education.
Motivated by her desire to learn in a caring, supportive community, Khan enrolled at Cabrini, where she says the beautiful, tree-lined campus reminds her of her childhood home in the suburbs of Pakistan. More than that, said Khan, “I chose Cabrini because of its mission of the Education of the Heart. It really focuses on the education side of the college experience compared to some larger schools.
“I love it at Cabrini,” Khan said, noting how important the support of faculty and staff have been to her. She says that Kimberly Boyd, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology and Associate Dean for Student Success, “has been there to support me since freshman year and still helps me through every decision I make.”
Since the end of her first year on campus, Khan has also worked with Assistant Professor of Biology Anna Blice-Baum, PhD, on research regarding the heart using fruit flies.
“When I started as a new student,” said Khan, “I worked in the lab with my professor one-on-one, but I’ve learned so much and gained the confidence to work independently. That transformation happened because of the opportunities and supportive community at Cabrini.”
Blice-Baum has enjoyed watching Khan become more adept in her research.
“She did not know many techniques when she started, but she has mastered many in the last year, including fruit fly heart surgery, a skill that took me months to master,” Blice-Baum said. “She asks thoughtful questions and thinks critically about the problems we encounter in our research.”
This summer, Khan is commuting to campus a few times a week to work in the lab and feels confident in her research project progression. She feels proud of her personal growth as a student.
Aside from often studying to maintain her GPA, Khan is also very active around campus. She is a part of the school’s Honors Program, the Science Scholars for Social Justice (SSSJ) Program, a participant in Leadstrong, an active member of the Science Club on campus, a peer mentor for Math and Science, and was recently inducted into the biology honors society, Tri-Beta.
Khan also values the importance of giving back to the local community and works with the Next Step program, most recently she spent time volunteering in Norristown at a homeless shelter and tutored students to help them receive their GED or diploma.
After she graduates from Cabrini in 2021, Khan plans to go to medical school to become a cardiologist. If her life experience so far is any indication, nothing will hold back this Shining Star.