Name: Hassan S.

Hometown: Karachi, Pakistan

Major(s): Currently planning to explore the intersection of Environmental Science and Biophysics

How did you discover Hopkins and why did you decide to apply ED? When I was choosing the institutions for my undergraduate education, I knew I wanted the academic experience itself to extend far beyond the scope of the classroom. I am sure no words I can type here will ever do justice to the scope and quality of interdisciplinary research being done at JHU that is contributing to making our world a better place. With the opportunities available to a Blue Jay, I knew JHU would be the perfect place to sate my hunger for knowledge and its applications: a place where I would have the chance to not only interact with those currently involved in the discovery of new knowledge, but possibly work with them to make those discoveries. Thinking about such experiences alone gives me goosebumps, and I cannot describe in words how excited I am to be able to attend JHU later this year.

Who is the most influential person in your life and why? I would definitely say my elder brother, Shayan. From helping me overcome my math anxiety in middle-school to inspiring me through his struggles and successes to build my own start-up, I believe having him in my life is possibly the most delightfully defining aspect of who I am.

If you could teach one class at Hopkins, what would it be? (already exists or invented by you!) Analyzing Desi Totkay: Utilizing lab analysis and literature review to unravel the science (or the lack of it) behind the herbal & spiritual remedies passed down through generations in South Asian households.

Is there a quote or motto that inspires you? What is it and what does it mean to you? “If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”—Carl Sagan. These few yet profound words can be used to consolidate both my ambitions and my outlook on life. I believe us humans to be amazing beings capable of great things, and while we seem to be insignificant enough to not have some grand role to play in the grand scheme of things in the cosmos, that insignificance should not stop us from finding beauty and meaning in life through our own experiences. For me, there is no greater goal than helping humanity push past new boundaries, whether through discovery of new knowledge, or by uplifting and improving the lives of others more directly.

What are you most excited to do in Baltimore? Apart from everything related to JHU, I am really eager to find out whether the Maryland blue crabs will live up to the hype.

What do you hope to get involved in on campus? A LOT OF THINGS!!! From getting involved with undergraduate research and environmental start-ups to joining Kranti and getting music lessons through Peabody Conservatory, I hope I get I can get as much out of the JHU experience as I can realistically, without taking any hits academically, of course.

How has your family background or life experiences shaped you? I grew up with differing religious ideologies around me. My parents belonging to two different and often at odds sects of Islam, and I attended 11 years of school at St. Patrick’s School in Karachi, which meant growing up with friends from the Christian, Hindu, Sikh, and Parsi communities in Pakistan, which prefer sending their children to Catholic Missionary schools around the country. Having been surrounded by this kind of diversity, I have grown up to be a very skeptical individual when it comes to people or groups claiming to have all the right answers. However, that skepticism also comes with an appreciation for the freedom of having different opinions, for it was those differences that pushed to set out to answers things for myself, instead of settling for what I was told by a single group or person.

What’s your best piece of college search advice for high school students? Answer your broader questions about the kind of institution which might be fit for you first, such as if you wish for a focus on the sort of undergraduate experience a small liberal arts college can provide compared to the opportunities available at a research-heavy university. Prioritize what you want in a sort of a flowchart, and I am sure you will be down to a list of colleges you would genuinely be happy attending.

What crazy invention would you love to design? A system of strategically placed biosystems powered by genetically engineered, hyper-photosynthesizing plants and algae that will help tackle climate change while also alleviating the increasing food insecurity for our growing population.

What book, album/song, or TV show has had a profound influence on your life? “The cosmos is within us. We are made of stardust. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” My ten year old eyes shone with excitement as I listened to Carl Sagan’s assertive yet warm voice. My brother had bought his show, Cosmos, on DVD for me. It was the best gift I could have asked for. It was an experience that introduced me to the vastness of the universe, and the wonders of the scientific process. It was the realization that we, light years away from other stars and 13.8 billion years after the birth of the universe, have figured so much out about the cosmos. And not only have we started to understand the natural world, but we have also started to bend it using our inventions. The power of uncovering the universe’s mysteries and using that learning to create something, be it artificial intelligence or an ordinary zip-lock, fills me with excitement to this day, and will continue to inspire me in the future as well.

What fictional character do you most relate to or most closely represents you as a person? I probably relate the most to Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda. We can infer he was ambitious, and in an altruistic way, since he founded the Valley of Peace and developed and taught the art of Kung Fu in addition to many of his other teachings as an effort to improve lives instead of hoarding all that knowledge. While I can relate to his scholarly ambitions and altruistic ideology, I also deeply relate to how at peace Oogway is shown to be. While he probably made mistakes just as I do, he never let those mentally put him down, or made him feel guilty over thing that have happened in the past. It reminds me of how some of my closest friends from school believe me to be the most content person that they know.

What are you most excited for about college and/or coming to Hopkins? Definitely meeting the students and faculty involved in cutting-edge research, and truly experiencing how new knowledge is discovered first hand.

What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of? (big or small!) Finishing a 10 km cross-country race after two years of hard work and dedication to overcome my obesity and related health & fitness concerns.

If you could get ice cream with one person (real or imaginary; dead or alive), who would it be and what kind of ice cream would you get? I would get both a cone of soft serve and a cone of gelato with Richard Feynman, and ask him to explain the difference between the textures of the two types based on their molecular structures as we eat. I absolutely love his lectures, and I think I would love to hear him explain how ice creams work from such a complicated frame of reference.

Complete this sentence: “I would not be here on this journey to Hopkins if it weren’t for _____________ (person/place/thing/experience/etc.).” My brother.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? (dream big!) Founding the first “terraformation” company, dedicated to building interdisciplinary solutions to engineer the Earth’s environmental conditions to tackle climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity, and other similar environmental challenges around the globe.