Osman Salahuddin has set large goals for himself. Studying neurobiology at the University of Washington, Osman maximizes every opportunity he receives to perfect his craft. From performing research for over two years at Fred Hutch to working as the Director of Community Relations on the ASUW Board of Directors, Osman is ensuring that he better understands not only the fields he studies, but the community he knows he will impact.

Such an ambitious plans requires strong dedication, and Osman is fueled by the patients he has worked with both in the past and present. Read more about what inspires Osman, what communities he hopes to affect, as well as the goals he has made for himself!

What inspired you to pursue your major?

My interest in the neuroscience field began four years ago, when I served as a volunteer at SNAPS, a preschool for children with special needs. As I built a strong connection with a student who had high-functioning autism, I was moved by the level of awareness that he showed. Entering the University of Washington, my time with this young five-year-old boy shaped my academic pursuits as he inspired me to learn more about autism. After taking introductory biology courses and doing more research on disabilities, I attempted to comprehend the reasoning behind his characteristics. Hopefully, I would even be able to continue the autism research that I was interested in exploring when I came to this University. In essence, this major is the perfect amalgamation of thought-provoking academics and intensive research, a combination that I believe can help me succeed well beyond my undergraduate career.

Tell us about your current coursework.

Over the past few years, I have completed most of the general science courses – including the biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics series. I was able to skip some mathematics courses due to AP classes in high school, and currently, I am taking credits in a neurobiology class, a biochemistry class, a biology research study, and an English class – which gives me credits towards my minor in English.

What has been your favorite class and how does it pertain to your major?

My favorite class at the University of Washington has definitely been Biology 220. It was the third course in the biology series and in the class, we learned about plants and animals. I think that neurobiology is such a specific major; however, it has so much room for integration with other subjects and I learned a lot about how the human body works in BIO 220. This gave me insight as to the importance of the brain and spinal cord and how those work with other parts of the human body to help humans function.

What excites you most about your future profession?

I am currently studying to become a pediatric physician and collaborating with like-minded individuals to forge a path towards a more promising future for the global population. I am really excited about this profession because I hope to one-day work in under-privileged communities to truly understand and combat the inequalities and challenges that exist in healthcare. My hope is that I am able to utilize my knowledge from the neurobiology field to break down these complex issues and analyze them closely to provide a better system of healthcare that serves all human beings equally.

Tell us about your research work this summer.

This past summer, I had the unique opportunity to not only participate in one research study but work one two separate studies in two different departments. I did research both at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the Smith Lab – exploring recombination in genetic crosses between S. pombe strains – and at the UW Medical Center Emergency Department – working with patients with Shortness of Breath (SOB) and assessing links between the SOB and congestive heart failure. The opportunity at Fred Hutch provided me the ability to get hands-on experience doing research in a lab setting, working with cultures, colonies, and PCR machines, while the opportunity in the Emergency Department gave me more of a clinical perspective, being able to interact directly with doctors and patients. I was so lucky to be able to observe medical professionals in action, witnessing varying degrees of injuries, illnesses, and conditions.

How did you land this opportunity?

I landed both opportunities through the Work Study program at the University of Washington, which has been extremely helpful in allowing me to explore opportunities that are incredibly rewarding in my field.

Has your research influenced what coursework you will pursue in the future?

This internship has given me a foundation to utilize the ArcGIS and Remote Sensing applications as a tool in my tool kit as an emerging Indigenous scientist and scholar, so I complete all courses centered around ArcGIS to become fluent in this application. Utilizing ArcGIS throughout this internship, I also see how a strong understanding of Geology can benefit, so I plan to go through the Geology series and will be taking the Geology 101 in the fall.

What advice do you have for other students thinking about or seeking undergraduate research opportunities?

My main piece of advice is to not give up whenever times get tough and to always put your best foot forward and show why you are really passionate about an opportunity. Always try your hardest and keep your head up because you never know what opportunity might arise.

What has surprised you most about your program and studies?

I have been really surprised by how many like-minded individuals I have met while embarking on my studies at UW. There are so many students who are interested in the sciences and it is always refreshing to listen to their perspectives and why they are studying their particular majors. The diversity of the individuals has also been a great surprise, and I feel like I am able to meet someone entirely new – from an entirely different background – almost every day. I think that this is extremely beneficial in the healthcare field, because in the ever-changing global population, having professionals who are sensitive to different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences will be incredibly positive.

What extracurricular activities are you participating in that are helping you with your career goals?

Some extracurricular activities that I participate in – beyond the research projects that I work on – are serving as the Director of Community Relations on the ASUW Board of Directors, the president of IHSAN UW, a volunteer at The Citizen’s Foundation, a program coordinator at i9 Sports Flag Football League, and a voting member on the UW Arts and Sciences Advisory Council. I believe that all of these things together help me with my career goals equally.

How has receiving WSOS supported you on your path to a thriving career in your field?

Receiving the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship has been invaluable for me as I journey on my path towards a future in the healthcare field, and the $5,000 scholarship that I was awarded through Battelle truly means the world to me. Balancing costs with the high price of tuition has been difficult over my past two years at the University of Washington – Seattle; however, now heading into my junior year, I can have peace of mind in knowing that Battelle graciously gave me $5,000 to pursue my academic aspirations. Hopefully one day, I will be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to assist students like myself as they go on their paths towards future success.

What is your favorite app?

My favorite app definitely has to be Instagram. Not only do I love taking photographs, but I think that the platform that Instagram provides – being able to view pictures of celebrities and friends alike on a clean, organized layout – is such a great thing. I often find myself in awe at some of the photos that my friends take and always use other peoples’ pictures as inspirations for my own life. Instagram really shows me that there is such a huge world out there that needs exploring and innovating. Hopefully one day I am able to venture out and leave my mark on the world as so many before me have done.