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Three men.
Pictured: Mohamad Anwar, Costantino Vetriani and Ahmed Anwar (2016 Waksman Awardee)

Questions for Mohamad and Ahmed Anwar B.S. Microbiology 2016 - Questions asked by Dr. Jeffrey Boyd

Where did you grow up? Mohamad and I were born in Alexandria, Egypt and spent the first couple of years of our lives there. I was one and Mohamad was eight when we came to the United States. We spent the majority of our youth in Avenel New Jersey, but we moved to Edison New Jersey in 2012.

How and when did you become interested in microbiology? We became interested in the study of Microbiology after taking General Microbiology with Dr. Erin Christensen at Middlesex County College (MCC). Dr. Christensen taught her subject with such passion that we could not help but fall in love with it as well. She was the reason that we, and several of our friends, transferred from MCC to Rutgers as Microbiology majors.

Did you have a defining moment as a young person that fortified your interest in microbiology? Ahmed: When I was in my High school Biology class we had a lab in which we sampled different items and inanimate objects around the school and grew out our results on agar plates. After several days of incubation we looked at the results and saw all the bacterial growth. This was the first time I appreciated “The world within our world” as I like to call it. I understood and appreciated that there is so much life that I could not see yet knowing it was there was amazing. Seeing those plates peaked my interest in the field and then Dr. Christensen's course crystallized my love for the subject. Mohamad: As a child I was always finding my way into the messiest of situations, whether it's playing with mud or grabbing frogs from the back yard. No matter what it was, my parents always told me to go wash those germs off of my hands. At the time I didn't have a solid concept as to how something could be on me if i can't see it, which led me to ask lots of questions. It wasn't until I asked my uncle who is a doctor that landed me the answer that there are tiny living organisms all over our bodies and the environment. This fascinating new information led my curiosity in the direction that placed me where I am today.

What impact did your parents have on your desire to obtain of an undergraduate degree in microbiology?  Our parents thought it was an amazing Idea to choose microbiology. They knew it had several benefits, the biggest one of course being that it would propagate us deeper into the world of microorganisms, which have a great deal to do with medicine; a career that both wish to pursue. This led them to support us in every way, shape, and form, never ceasing to encourage us and help out whenever they could. My mother was trained as a teacher, and my father as an archaeologist, so they are not strangers to the world of academia; this allowed them to appreciate the value of our Microbiology degree at Rutgers.

It is unusual to have two brothers graduate with the same degree at the same time from the same department. Did one of you influence the other to pursue an undergraduate degree in microbiology? What is the story behind this? Although it is peculiar that both of us are graduating with the same degree at the same time, it is not unusual that it is a Microbiology degree, because the prestige of this degree is extravagant. When transitioning to Rutgers from MCC we were almost going to continue as regular biology majors. However, when we saw a Microbiology option we both looked at each other and instantaneously knew this would be our path for the remainder of our B.S. degree. It also helped a lot having several of our friends that were biology majors at MCC transfer with us as Microbiology majors. With our future goals in mind, a Microbiology degree was sure to put us a step ahead of the competition.

Mohamad, I understand that you are a “non-traditional” student. What inspired you to return to school in pursuit of a bachelor's degree?  Mohamad: Returning to School was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. After being away for so long, getting back on the wagon was almost near impossible. But men do great things when they have great inspiration. Even though while away from school I had a job that afforded me financial comfort, I still felt unfulfilled. Deep down inside I had a yearning to become something more, not for financial reasons, but because I wanted to feel that the man in the mirror staring back at me contributes to society in a fruitful manner. Continuing my education and getting back on track gave me a sense of purpose and joy, a sentiment I hadn't known in a long time. It's a very different feeling when people look at you versus when people look to you, with the latter being my ultimate goal as an inspiration to others that are in the same place I was before making that decision to return to the world of academia.