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Heading For Harvard
Misbath Daouda ’15 knows she wants to get her PhD in pharmacology, but between now and then, she’ll be furthering her research and studies as a postbaccalaureate scholar at Harvard University.
Daouda, who graduated this spring from Washington College with a double major in chemistry and Hispanic studies, earned a position in the Gap Year Scholar Program, a collaboration between Harvard and the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR).
“I will be a gap year scholar for two years, doing research within their [NIBR’s] Developmental and Molecular Pathways department, and taking classes at Harvard relevant to the project that I will be working on. So I guess I am a part-time employee and a part-time student,” Daouda says. A gateway to grad school, the program also includes GRE classes, career panels, and seminars.
She learned of the program while searching NIBR’s website. The interview process was really a mutual examination, with Daouda and the three investigators she would be working with asking questions of each other and ranking one another to seek the best match for collaboration.
“They were asking me questions, but I was also asking them questions about their mentoring style,” she says. “Personality and mentoring style were big parts of the decision.”
At Washington College’s Commencement in May, Daouda won the Clark-Porter Medal, “to the student whose character and personal integrity, in the opinion of the faculty, have most clearly enhanced the quality of campus life.” Daouda was a course mentor for biology during her junior year and for organic chemistry during her senior year. A member of the International Relations Club, she also volunteered for Latino Community Outreach, through which she helped translate for Spanish speaking patients at the Chester River Hospital, and helped organize the annual Día de Fútbol. And in all her spare time, she was also a resident assistant.
Originally from France and Benin, and having lived in Senegal and Washington, D.C., Daouda speaks French, English, Spanish, and Wolof—a language of Senegal. She knew she wanted to study chemistry when she came to Washington College, but she also chose Hispanic studies “because I feel like I’m not a regular science person. Sometimes I just need a break from equations and lab reports. I really enjoy literature and I like writing. That’s my bubble of air.”
During the summer of her junior year, she participated in a 12-week research internship in computational chemistry at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, conducting all of her lab work in Spanish. She also conducted research for her Hispanic studies senior thesis, which focused on how cultural attitudes toward HIV can affect the spread of the disease.
“It really seems that the sky is the limit for Misbath,” says her chemistry advisor, Anne Marteel-Parrish, associate professor of chemistry and chair of the department. “She sets herself up for success and takes a leadership role where she knows she can make a difference. She likes to be challenged and she is not afraid to be pushed out of her comfort zone. And, my conversations in French with Misbath are always lovely, and it is great to be able to share a great laugh with somebody of the same citizenship.”