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Zarya Shaikh '22
BS Biochemistry, BA Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies


Where are you originally from?

I’m a first-generation immigrant born in Brooklyn with roots in Pakistan. 


I will graduate with a Biochemistry, BS and a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, BA with a specialization in Gender, Sexuality, and Public Health. 

As a high school senior, I was unsure whether to pursue biology or chemistry. I was fascinated by both. I had been doing research in a chemistry lab at the time and asked my principal investigator. He asked whether I was more interested in the clinical or research application of science. My answer was both, so I decided to pursue Biochemistry. 

As for the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major, I came across the WGSS Department in my third year when my friends first raved about the WGSS introductory courses. I decided to stop by an open house and was inspired. The enthusiasm and passion of the faculty were unlike any I had seen before. I decided to take an introductory WGSS course, and the rest is history. The classes I have taken will allow me to connect with my future patients on another level, allowing me to understand the root of their tension towards a treatment they are unfamiliar with. I can create a treatment plan that best accommodates their thinking, traditions, and culture. I will remember the lessons I have learned long after graduation. 

Favorite class?

BIO 365: Biochemistry Lab will hold a special place in my heart. For as long as I can remember, I have been the first person to enter the lab and the very last person to leave. I can admit it’s not because I want to stay later. During one semester, I was scheduled for biology lab in the morning, chemistry lab in the afternoon, and physics lab that evening. I remember I was on track to finish an hour earlier than expected in the chemistry lab. Nerves got the best of me, and I ended up squeezing my test tube so hard that it broke in my hand. I ended up restarting and staying 45 minutes after all of my classmates had left. I couldn’t even submit my new product because of the extended time I took. I thought I was destined to forever leave lab alone as the last person. By the time I took BIO 365: Biochemistry Lab in my next semester, I accepted my fate and committed to being the last to leave. I guess my lab group signed the same agreement when we randomly selected our seats. From day one, we were the first ones to enter the lab and, no matter how hard we tried, we were also the last ones to leave. At some point, I stopped caring about the time once I entered that lab room. It didn’t matter as long as I had my labmates. It was with this lab group that I learned how to appreciate the process and embrace the mistakes. It took my lab group one semester to build up the self-esteem that I had broken down over years of failed experiments both inside the lab and outside of it. I had finally found someone to be last with.



BIO 365.L02 Groups 04 and 05 holding the final product of their undergraduate careers.  

Interests and accomplishments:

I celebrate the end of every semester by baking a cake. I have finally perfected my date bundt cake with honey clove glaze! It was the perfect dessert to open the last fast of Ramadan after midterms were done. 

Greatest achievement? 

About a year ago, I created Queer Diagnosis: The LGBTQ+ Health Podcast with my SBU peers Srihita Mediboina (Class of ‘21) and Jameson Coleman (Class of ‘22). We embarked on a journey to increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ healthcare providers through a series of interviews. What started out as a conversation on FaceTime has since turned into two seasons featuring incredible guests who have inspired us with their paths to being out in the healthcare field.

Our team has since expanded thanks to a for-credit internship created through the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Department here at Stony Brook University. I was able to lead six undergraduate interns as the internship director and was even featured in the latest edition of Stony Brook Magazine! We hope to focus on outreach initiatives, including creating professional development seminars and an “internship clothing closet” for undergraduate students, when the internship continues in Fall ‘22. 

Awards & Accolades: 

  • Phi Beta Kappa Member
  • Dean’s Student Advisory Council Member
  • Dean’s List
  • University Scholar
  • Upstander Award
  • Presidential Scholarship Recipient
  • First Alumni Scholarship Recipient
  • National Merit Scholarship Recipient
  • Pride Scholarship Recipient
  • Emergency Medicine Services Scholarship Recipient
  • Asian & Asian American Studies Student Symposium Presenter

Career aspirations:

As for future plans, I’ll be a cardiovascular researcher at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons studying the causes of arrhythmias and cardiomyopathy. I am an aspiring surgeon who would also like to become a professor of medicine, a researcher in gender and health, and an author. I hope to open a flower shop in retirement. 


  • Queer Diagnosis: The LGBTQ+ Health Podcast Creator
  • O’Neill Hall Council President
  • Ammann Hall Council Present
  • I Am That Girl Club Secretary
  • Brooklogue Writer
  • Pre-Medical Society Member

Advice for future Seawolves? 

You are capable of all that you hope to achieve. The opportunities are unlimited at Stony Brook University.

In my freshman year, I had put an employee-employer mixer on my calendar. I printed my resume, ironed my best business casual, and headed over to the Student Activities Center. I took a seat at the table and waited for the mixer to start. As I took a look around the room, I was impressed by the commitment of others (who I could only assume to be seniors) wearing suits and ties. It took about 10 minutes into the meeting for me to realize that I was seated with the employers planning for the mixer—which was supposed to be held the following week. It turned out I had put the wrong date but the right time on my calendar. Embarrassed, I quickly apologized and got up to leave. The employers objected to my departure, insistent on reviewing my resume since I was already there. I was nervous but decided to stay. By the time I left, I had secured a position as a medical scribe in Manhattan. 

That position has since led me to my roles as an emergency medical technician, a research assistant, a shadowing student in the operating room, and more.