From a social media post to a PhD at Harvard
By Malak Abdel-Ghaffar
Mariam Elgamal, Class of 2021, graduated with a BS double majoring in electrical engineering and computer science. With a goal to excel in research early on, Elgamal’s curiosity and time on social media eventually led her to pursue a PhD in electrical engineering at Harvard University.
“I was a serial dabbler during my undergraduate studies. I did research in materials science, in data analytics, in artificial neural networks for materials science applications, and ended with a computer engineering Capstone,” Elgamal said.
Although Elgamal was initially interested in chemical engineering, her undergraduate research introduced her to the joy of interdisciplinary study. Many students share a similar experience when they join NYUAD, but this is where the beauty of a liberal arts education kicks in.
Elgamal believes in seeking out opportunities in unconventional ways and through non-traditional platforms and channels. She learned about her current program through a post on a Facebook group for women in tech, a group she’s been active on for several years. When she joined a webinar hosted by Harvard University, Elgamal was placed in a breakout room where she met a new professor whose research aligned perfectly with her interests and diverse experiences. “If I had planned it out, it wouldn’t have happened the way it had,” she added
Don’t try to duplicate anyone with your application. Just find how you stand out and emphasize that.
Elgamal’s application to Harvard stood out because she made a personal connection with her top-choice professor. Looking back at her process, Elgamal advises students to go that extra mile and make sure to connect with people whenever it is possible. Elgamal reached out to tons of students to help her with her application, multiple professors to guide her thinking, and many friends to support her growth. “Everyone you meet can be so helpful. More than you can imagine.”