Mariam Khalifeh ’11
As the first student to come to Wilson College on a scholarship from the AMIDEAST organization, Mariam Khalifeh carried a lot of expectations on her shoulders. By the time she graduated in May, she had exceeded all of them.
Mariam, who is from the nation of Lebanon, was chosen for the Diana Kamal Scholarship from scores of students from all over the Middle East. The scholarship allowed her to attend Wilson for four years and in May, she graduated summa cum laude with bachelor’s degrees in both biology and chemistry. The Phi Beta Kappa inductee graduated with honors in the major.
As a rising senior, Mariam won the Margaret Criswell Disert Honors Scholarship for the most outstanding senior research proposal and gave an impressive presentation involving the disorder, hypercholesterolemia, on Student Research Day 2011. She also won the E. Grace White Prize, given to a senior who has demonstrated outstanding achievement and plans a career involving the biological sciences.
“She’s the type of student that doesn’t necessarily come along very often,” said Dr. Brad Engle, one of Mariam’s advisers. “When you have a student of that caliber, it’s just a joy to work with them, and having them in the classroom raises the whole level of performance. I think it encourages other students to strive for excellence.”
Mariam plans to go to medical school, most likely to pursue a career as a pediatrician. In Michigan for the summer, she recently took the MCAT (medical school admission test) and has applied to several medical schools in the United States.
In the meantime, she is looking for a job while enjoying a rare and much-needed break from her studies.
At Wilson, Mariam was more than just a disciplined student. She also took time to help others. She tutored other students in biology, chemistry and Arabic, and somehow found time to volunteer at the Penn Hall nursing home, where she spent time with Alzheimer’s patients.
“She is a caring person who wanted to help wherever she could,” Engle said.
When she first arrived at Wilson, Mariam found it difficult at first to adjust to being away from family and friends, but eventually, she found a second home here – one that she says helped her become a stronger person and a more prepared and focused student.
“It’s been a great experience here at Wilson and I think it changed me a lot,” she said. “I think now I’m a more confident person than the person who came here freshman year.”
The hands-on experience she gained by being able to work in a laboratory almost daily and apply what she was learning in class in that setting was invaluable, according to Mariam, who jokes that her writing and speaking skills also improved greatly because “in almost every class I take, I have to do a presentation and a long paper.”
Mariam also appreciated the liberal arts experience Wilson offers.
“I like that you learn not only about your major, you learn about everything - arts, history, economics,” said Mariam. “You learn about all other areas, which is different. It does not happen everywhere else.”