For biochemistry major and aspiring healthcare practitioner, Aalia Shariff ’19, attending NC State was the best decision she could have made for her higher education journey.
Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Aalia Shariff: I grew up in Charlotte and am proud to call it home. My loving family of six consists of my mother and father, two older sisters, younger brother, and myself. Both of my parents moved here from Pakistan, and they now teach at local colleges. As educators themselves, my parents always stressed the importance of education to my siblings and me, and they sacrificed a lot to secure a good education for us. My older sisters and I have covered the Triangle area by attending Duke, UNC, and NC State. Obviously, I made the best decision! For high school, I was lucky to attend Lake Norman Charter School, where my younger brother is now a senior. It was recently ranked among the nation’s top public high schools, no doubt because of the dedicated teachers.
I have also been able to learn from some of the most dedicated professors here at NC State. In the classroom and in the lab, the professors’ passion and enthusiasm for what they are teaching is evident and is conveyed to the students. For me that passion lies in the subject of biochemistry. In high school I enjoyed both the biology and chemistry classes I took, so I decided on my major without completely knowing what it entailed. However, my interest was solidified after taking more classes and learning more specifically what biochemistry is. It connects the chemical component to biological processes such as metabolism and organic molecule interactions, which is necessary for advances in medicine and biotechnology among other fields.
Talk about some of your greatest accomplishments at NC State thus far.
While at NC State, I have excelled academically, earning a spot on the Dean’s list for both semesters of my first year with a perfect GPA. On the extracurricular side, I helped establish the NC State chapter of Operation Smile. Operation Smile is an international children’s medical charity which provides free cleft lip and palate repair surgeries. I currently serve on the chapter’s executive board as the fundraising chair. I am also an active member of the Muslim Student Association, which promotes unity between Muslims and non-Muslims through interfaith dialogue.
To explore different career paths and specializations in medicine, I have had the opportunity to shadow several physicians. Most recently, I spent the summer shadowing a cardiologist and volunteering to implement the clinic’s new electronic health record system. This built upon my experience with electronic health records while completing a group research project on public health in North Carolina in the Goodnight Scholars’ first-year seminar.
I have also been able to learn from some of the most dedicated professors here at NC State. In the classroom and in the lab, the professors’ passion and enthusiasm for what they are teaching is evident and is conveyed to the students.
How would you describe your experience in the Goodnight Scholars Program?
Being a part of the Goodnight Scholars Program has been an invaluable experience. As a member of the Goodnight Scholars Class of 2019, I was able to take part in notable firsts with the Program including the Finalist Interview Day and first-year seminar course. This made us a tight-knit cohort and a strong group of friends, and I think it will make future classes of Goodnight Scholars even stronger. The many events held throughout the year are educational and enjoyable. I can meet my peers and get useful advice from industry and community leaders. I especially enjoyed taking part in the second annual LEGO Brick Build last year. The Brick Build is an event where kids from the Wake County Boys & Girls Club are invited to NC State to participate in STEM-related LEGO activities and where NC State students and faculty may compete in a LEGO building competition. I am looking forward to serving on the Brick Build Committee this year.
What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?
It means that I always have a support system at NC State that encourages me to excel in all aspects of my life, not just academically and professionally. The generous financial contribution is the beginning of countless opportunities offered to Goodnight Scholars for their hard work. In turn, we will use the skills gained from those opportunities to improve the world around us. For me, being a Goodnight Scholar is a constant reminder that there is an investment in my future, so that I may pay it forward to my community. I value every moment that I am a part of the Goodnight Scholars Program, and I hope to impact someone as much as this Program has impacted me.
What will the next few years look like for you?
After completing my undergraduate career here at NC State, I plan to attend medical school and become a physician. Of course I want to help others, but I also want to make them feel as best they can. By practicing medicine, I would be able to do this through giving patients quality healthcare.
What advice would give to a new or prospective Goodnight Scholars about being involved at NC State and the Goodnight Scholars Program?
Ask thoughtful questions! When you ask meaningful questions that others are not asking, you get the most informative responses. In the Goodnight Scholars Program, you are surrounded by brilliant people whom you can learn a lot from if you simply ask. Also, as I mentioned before, you are presented with many opportunities in this Program including events, trips, and grant funding, so take advantage of them; they are there to benefit you.