John Marshall High School graduate Ahmed M. Ahmed will take his desire to learn across the Atlantic Ocean next fall. He will attend Oxford University as one of 32 Rhodes Scholars selected by the Rhodes Trust on Sunday.
"I was extremely excited to have been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship," Ahmed said. "I'm excited for all that I will learn, and I know this experience will help me better serve others."
Ahmed, who graduated from John Marshall in 2013, is majoring in biology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. After graduating from high school, he has dedicated his time to study and giving back to his community, volunteering as a tutor in organic and medical chemistry and at Habitat for Humanity. He said the Rhodes Trust is known for bringing together a talented and diverse group of civic-minded leaders, and he was thrilled when the Rhodes Committee informed him of their decision.
He hopes to study organic and medicinal chemistry while at Oxford. "My goal is to be a physician-scientist in translational medicine where I hope to facilitate the transition of therapeutics from bench to bedside," he said.
All this is a long way from where Ahmed started, a refugee from Somalia who arrived in the United States from a camp in Kenya.
Ahmed was not always a dedicated student. But the death of his father when he was in the seventh grade made Ahmed refocus his life and develop the skills he would need to earn a scholarship to Cornell and excel at the university.
"I never really grasped the concept of just how precious life was until then," Ahmed told the Post Bulletin in 2013. "You never think you're going to lose someone that close. I always wanted to take every opportunity I was given and absolutely do the most I felt I could with it."
That drive was evident to John Marshall calculus teacher Jacob Johnson, who remembers a friendly, outgoing student with an incredible work ethic.
"It was pretty evident he was a special kid when he was here," Johnson said, describing a student who inspired those around him by his hard work. "He showed up for every study group we had. That kind of level of learning is something special."
Johnson said he is happy for Ahmed and believes his former pupil will go far. "He's definitely someone you root for," he said.
According to the Cornell Daily Sun, Ahmed conducts research on producing polyolefins as part of the work being done by Professor Geoff Coates, and has received an award for his work as a teaching assistant n 2015. He also served as an EMT on Cornell's Emergency Management Services.
Coates said he first met Ahmed when he took his sophomore organic chemistry class. In a group of 700 chemistry and pre-med students, he said, Ahmed stood out. "He was one of the most spectacular students I've ever had the pleasure of working with," Coates said.
It was during that semester that Ahmed approached Coates about becoming a research assistant. Adding the student to his research team was "a no-brainer."
"I'm just thrilled for him," Coates said of the Rhodes Scholar honor for Ahmed. "It couldn't happen to a more qualified or nicer guy."
The 2017 scholars-elect were chosen from 882 applicants who were endorsed by 311 colleges and universities, the AP reported. The scholarships cover all expenses for two or three years of study at Oxford starting next October.