Mustafa Quadir’20 discovered a passion for anthropology at Beloit, and with help from faculty, he crafted a way to weave that passion with his research interests and plans to study medicine. He thinks he’ll be a better doctor one day because of his Beloit experiences.
Class Year: 2020
Major(s): Anthropology and Biochemistry
Where do you call home? Karachi, Pakistan
How did you hear about Beloit? What made you excited to come here?
I got interested in Beloit because of how Loren Pope wrote about it in Colleges That Change Lives. I wasn’t able to visit any of the colleges that I intended to apply to, and Beloit was the only college that offered me a conversation over Skype and then connected me with a current student with similar interests (pre-med, and a biology major). It was the student who really sold the college to me! She emailed me back and forth for over six months, explaining all of her experiences and all that Beloit meant to her.
By the time April came around I knew so much about Beloit versus any other school, and I could legitimately see myself thriving here, despite having never set foot on campus. In true Beloit fashion, I found out after my first year that I had a family member who attended and graduated in 2000. That was just crazy.
What kind of activities are you involved with on campus?
I’m really lucky in that all the work I do connects me with our community in such different ways. I’ve worked for admissions since September of my first year, and over time I’ve taken up more and different responsibilities–from being a receptionist to interviewing international and domestic students. I’ve worked with ResLife as an RA for three years now, and have been the RA for 609, Haven, Moore, and Blaisdell. Last year, I started working with the Board of Trustees as a student representative. I have learned so much about college governance and have gained a group of inspirational mentors who’ve given so much to the college. My most recent involvement is as a senior class officer and I’m excited to work with my peers to plan Senior Week.
What off-campus opportunities have you enjoyed?
I traveled far to get to Beloit, so I decided I didn’t want to spend a semester abroad pretty early on in my Beloit career. But, that didn’t stop me from using Beloit as a stepping stone to travel to places I’d never experienced before. My FYI advisor (Dr. Leslie Williams) introduced me to anthropology, which led me to attend a cemetery excavation project in Denmark. Funnily enough, one of the directors for the field school was Dr. George Milner, who is a renowned bio-archaeologist and Beloit alumnus!
This excavation served as a stepping stone for my acceptance into a competitive National Science Foundation funded project that took me to Italy to do research on a Greek colony from the 6th century BCE. That project became the core of my research experience at Beloit. I’ve published an abstract as first author and presented my research at Beloit, as well as regional and international anthropology conferences. Most recently, I was an invited speaker at a regional conference in Denver, Colorado!
In my research, I look at the thin-sections of human teeth from the Greek colony Himera in Sicily, Italy, to better understand the health of the population during their childhood.
What has been your favorite class so far?
My favorite class has also been the toughest class I’ve taken at Beloit: Environmental, Analytical and Geochemistry with George Lisensky. The class taught me how to think about global problems like climate change, acid spills, the health of our oceans, etc. at a molecular level. It provided me with a great deal of perspective on how nature exists as a fine equilibrium, and Professor Lisensky did a great job teaching us the tools we need to overcome these challenges that my generation will most certainly face in the coming decades.
What has been your most unexpected Beloit experience?
I never expected to become so passionate about anthropology–so much so that I declared it as a double major with biochemistry, and focused my research experience in biological anthropology. I didn’t even know about the discipline before I came to Beloit!
My advisors and mentors at Beloit really helped me craft how anthropology, and more specifically my research, fits into my goal of going to medical school and becoming a doctor. The interdisciplinary education at Beloit made it so easy to be exposed to disciplines outside of my medical school requirements, and I’ll always be grateful to the staff and faculty that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I’ll come out knowing these experiences will make me a better doctor.
What’s been your biggest academic challenge?
Beloit offers so many interesting classes taught by inspirational faculty. It was so difficult to focus on what I need to graduate, versus all the other classes that I’m just as interested in as biochemistry and anthropology. I really made life difficult for myself in my first three years by overloading on classes just because I was interested in them. I learned my lesson by senior year when I realized I have enough credits to graduate a year early. So now I’m taking it easy with a normal course load.
Where is your favorite space on campus?
Java Joint during the day and C-Haus during the weekends. Both places have great music and a relaxed atmosphere. I also always meet someone new (especially my first year) at both places.
Where are you and your friends on Saturday night?
I try and find a new place to have dinner on the weekends, so my evenings start there. We usually end up watching the bands at C-Haus or exploring the events that are happening on campus.
What’s your advice for future Beloiters?
Take advantage of all the flexibility Beloit offers in terms of classes, diversity of students, internationalism, and networking. Really use the four years to build your skill set and knowledge because there’s a wealth of knowledge that exists in our community, and students are at the center of our mission.
Second, don’t let all these opportunities take away from your health and happiness. Hard work doesn’t mean you’re burnt out all the time. The most valuable advice I’ve gotten from a professor is that if you want to make a difference in the world, you also need to take care of yourself. Because you can’t give it your best if you’re burnt out.
How do you think Beloit has prepared you?
First, Beloit has given me everything on paper that I need to be competitive for a job and apply to medical school. That means people look at my transcript and resume and recognize that I’m a competitive applicant. Everything on both of those documents is because of the interdisciplinarity and rigor of our academics and also the opportunities we give them on and off campus.
Second, Beloit has given me real world experiences and the knowledge to look at the world critically and engage with people around me respectfully, intellectually, and with empathy. For example, my work at ResLife has given me critical insights into the challenges that students my age face while being at home, primarily because I’m often the first one to respond to situations with my residents. But then, I get to work with the department and craft a game plan that helps the student moving forward. We ask ourselves, what can we do for this student? How can we make sure other students don’t face similar problems, etc.? In a job interview that has to do with helping people, I’ll reflect on all these experiences, and I’ll have strong references to back up my work. This is all because of the small, close-knit community at Beloit.
What’s next for you?
Medical school, hopefully. I’ll be applying at the end of my senior year. It’s a long process. I hope to work at the college or the surrounding area in my year off.
How has financial aid and other support from the college impacted you? What does it mean to you that alumni and others give to the college to support your education?
As I’m finishing up my last year at Beloit, I can say that every dollar that I’ve been able to invest towards my education at Beloit has given me a larger return than I could ever have expected. I set foot on the campus for the first time during New Student Days, but that never would’ve happened without the generosity of friends and alums of the college who have boldly and silently championed my time at Beloit. My mentors, off campus experiences, scholarships, and friends, all trace back to people who’ve supported the college with no reason other than a genuine love for Beloit and to ensure that generations of Beloiters have the same and better experience then they did at their time at the college.
I want all the people who’ve supported the college economically, or otherwise, to know that I’m one of the students for whom Beloit was only possible because of their generosity. I hope to help many people as a doctor, but until then, their belief in me has instilled a responsibility to give back to Beloiters. I can’t wait to get started.