Raabia Hashmi is missing her senior year, at least in the traditional sense of what a senior year can be with homecoming, sports and all those extracurricular activities.
“I’m much more happy here, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I got. I wouldn’t trade it,” she said.
That opportunity took Hashmi, the daughter of Haroon Rashid and Fazia Hashmi, from the halls of Cedar Cliff High School to working alongside graduate students and scientists at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
Hashmi said she had completed an internship in epidemiology at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center during her junior year. During that internship, she learned how to use software in the lab, quantified and processed genetic information for epidemiological studies and prepared, cataloged and processed biological specimens for storage.
Those activities weren’t quite enough. Hashmi wanted to do an internship that involved more hands-on work in the laboratory. Her sister, who works in dermatology, connected her with someone at Thomas Jefferson University. Despite the initial shock that a high school student was applying for an internship, the school saw that Hashmi was willing to work hard and take a chance, so they accepted her.
Hashmi still had to deal with the reality of completing the credits she needed to graduate from high school. She had planned to attend Harrisburg Area Community College full-time for her senior year, so she asked her guidance counselor if that agreement would work for any community college. Having received an affirmative response, Hashmi enrolled in Montgomery County Community College for the necessary credits.
With that piece in place, Hashmi now lives with her sister in King of Prussia and commutes via train to her internship at the university lab in the city two days a week.
From about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on those days, she helps the scientists with their experiments and performs testing for Mycoplasma, a difficult-to-detect bacteria that requires cell cultures to be screened regularly to prevent contamination.
“I’ve definitely learned how to live on your own. I have my sister here with me, but it definitely teaches me a lot,” she said.
The work is preparing her for a career as a scientist. Hashmi said she enjoys cancer research and the environment of the laboratory where people collaborate and continually ask questions to push their experiments forward.
“Everyone is so forward thinking. Everyone is trying to figure out the next best thing. It’s a very motivational environment,” Hashmi said.
Hashmi will graduate from Cedar Cliff High School, and after that plans to major in biochemistry. She has been accepted at Temple University, Drexel University and Thomas Jefferson University, but is waiting to hear from one of her top choices, Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York.