From refugee camp wells to researching stem cells

Discussion in 'Science & Tech' started by admin, Feb 6, 2020.

  1. admin

    admin Staff Member Administrator

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    UW Ph.D. candidate Abdiasis Hussein reflects on his journey to higher education


    Growing up at a United Nations refugee camp in Kenya, Abdiasis Hussein recalls waking up at 5 a.m. to wait in line at a water station. Chatting with his friends animatedly as he waited, Hussein collected about five to 10 gallons of water to last his family of 12 for the day.

    While the food ration provided enough for his family to get by, basic sustenance was still an issue.

    “When you live in a camp, whatever you get, it’s already fixed,” Hussein said. “You don’t get the luxury of having everything you need. We had to do with what we had at the time.”

    After escaping the civil war in Somalia, Hussein’s family relocated to a refugee camp in Kenya when he was just four months old. Ten years later, they moved off the camp to Nairobi.

    When he was about 17-years-old, Hussein and his family had the opportunity to move to California because his older sister who moved to the United States was able to sponsor them.

    “I knew that school and getting an education and excelling was a ticket out of that life,” he said. “I knew that that’s what I had to do: go to school, get skills, and then do something with that with my life.”

    While he was determined to better his life through education, Hussein said that he did not want to limit himself to conventional fields and professions. He wanted to follow his passions and find something he actually found joy in doing.

    “When I came here, I knew that I didn’t have to settle just to get a job,” he said. “It’s a dead end.”

    Hussein completed high school and went on to earn an associate degree before he received a scholarship to study biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles.

    Through mentors and various research opportunities, he discovered his passion for the ever-growing field of scientific research.

    “Doing research and finding new things that people didn’t know at the time was my calling,” he said.

    Today, Hussein is a fifth-year biochemistry Ph.D. candidate at the UW. Working in the Ruohola-Baker lab, he primarily studies embryonic diapause in mice.

    Diapause is a quiescent state in early development where embryos, rather than implanting in the uterus, slow the process of development and do not rapidly divide.

    In mice, lactational stress induces diapause so one mother does not have two litters at once.

    During diapause the cells are still stem cells, or cells that later develop into all of the cells and tissues in the body.

    “The interesting thing about this state is [that] it’s reversible,” Hussein said. “What that means is that [an embryo] will go into this state and it will get out and continue in development.”

    A lot of things are still unknown about embryonic diapause, but Hussein and his colleagues study gene expression and metabolomics to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that regulate this state and allow the stem cells to survive.

    One of the interesting things they found was that certain chemical inhibitors ended the state of diapause.

    Hussein sees the potential for applications of these findings when studying cancer stem cells.

    “The implication of that is that if you can understand how these cells go into this quiescent state and how they get out, you can take that information and apply it into cancer stem cells,” he said.

    He explained that chemotherapy targets dividing cells, but if certain cells are in a quiescent state, the chemotherapy is unable to kill them. This can lead to relapse once chemotherapy ends because cancerous cells are able to divide and cause harm to a cancer patient’s body.

    Throughout his experience in the science field, Hussein recalls programs such as those by the National Institutes of Health which focused on steering students who come from minority backgrounds into STEM.

    Inspired by programs such as those, Hussein said he sometimes speaks to the Somali Student Association at the UW to encourage them to be open-minded and think about joining the STEM field.

    “A lot of people don’t know what’s in there for them, so that’s where I come in and I tell them all these routes that they can take,” Hussein said.

    He also volunteers for the Seattle Somali Health Board where he finds opportunities to inform people about what he does as a researcher.

    “My thinking was, if we have more people, more diversity, then that changes things for students,” Hussein said. “Students can see that and then they say, ‘There’s someone who I can relate to. If they’re doing this, I can do it too.’”

    Hussein has his own family now: a daughter who is almost 3-years-old and a 4-month-old son.

    While his children are still young, Hussein is excited for the opportunities and resources they will have as they grow up and choose their own lines of work.

    “The future is becoming brighter,” he said. “They will grow up in an environment where hopefully they can go for whatever they want to do and get help. It kind of helps when you have a parent who can steer you in the right direction.”

    http://www.dailyuw.com/science/article_daf8ca7a-4308-11ea-8fed-af769362fd7d.html
     
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  2. Muhammad Bire

    Muhammad Bire they Know my Name Hold Weight

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    He’s in my city!
    Can’t say I’ve seen him around campus, my classes are pretty far from the main building kkkk
     
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  3. Nostalgia

    Nostalgia Qtpie

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    Ma shaa Allāh TabarakAllāh, I love reading success stories. :icon mrgreen:
     
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  4. Awdalia Rising

    Awdalia Rising

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    Wow this is amazing.
     
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  5. The Good

    The Good VIP

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  6. Figo

    Figo Garowe&Galkacyo Staff Member Moderator

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    Masha Allah thanks for sharing his story. I’ve seen this guy around but don’t know him personally.
     
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  7. SuleymanPitt

    SuleymanPitt

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  8. Factz

    Factz Factzopedia VIP

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    Mashallah, it's good to see Somali brothers that struggled have turned it into success.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2020
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  9. Exodus

    Exodus Alienist

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    Somali excellence :mjswag:
     
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  10. Grant

    Grant VIP

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    Folks were throwing shade on the Abarso school because it is foreign owned- private, US.

    It is my understanding from online PC chatter that virtually the entire graduating class last year got through the US immigration ban and into schools like Yale, Harvard and UCLA.
    I will try to keep you posted but only hear from this contact twice a year.
     
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  11. Grant

    Grant VIP

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    Love all the success stories.
     
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  12. BUSC BUSC

    BUSC BUSC BEESHA-BARAKEYSAN

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