ONCOLOGY, CANCER GENOMICS RESEARCH ON
AGENDA FOR UH GRAD
Mohamad Halawi’s Determination Pays off
with Multiple Awards, Medical School Scholarship
HOUSTON, Oct. 28, 2005 – When Mohamad Halawi left war-torn
southern Lebanon a few years ago, he had virtually no resources
but unlimited optimism. Since then, this University of Houston graduate’s
hard work and intelligence have paid off with an NIH fellowship,
more than a quarter of a million dollars in scholarship money and
numerous other honors.
Halawi immigrated alone to the United States in 2001 at the age
of 17 with only $1,000 and worked more than 65 hours a week at two
jobs while taking a full load of classes. A 2005 UH graduate with
a degree in biochemical and biophysical sciences, he was ready to
start medical school upon graduating from the university and finishing
a second summer interning at Harvard Medical School. However, while
he longs to embark on the challenges of obtaining a medical degree
with a full Jack Kent Cooke (JKC) Foundation Graduate Scholarship
he received this summer for medical school, a second tremendous
opportunity from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) presented
him with an offer he couldn’t refuse – a one-year fellowship
to investigate his favorite subjects of genomics and bioinformatics
under the mentorship of Francis Collins, director of the NIH-National
Human Genome Research Institute.
“The NIH fellowship is not only a culmination of my undergraduate
studies, but it is also an opportunity to learn cutting-edge technologies
and develop an interdisciplinary perspective to answer challenging
questions,” Halawi said. “It will certainly be an asset
to my plan of pursuing thesis work during medical school.”
Halawi, who was a member of the UH College of Natural Sciences
and Mathematics, ultimately plans to become a physician-scientist
who practices in oncology and studies cancer genomics and bioinformatics.
Ted Estess, dean of the UH Honors College, knows Halawi through
his numerous extracurricular activities and said that the many honors
and scholarships that Halawi has been awarded have always been well
earned by his hard work, self-motivation and ambitious determination.
“We are excited to have Mohamad as the first UH student to
receive the JKC Graduate Scholarship,” said Margaret Watson,
assistant dean in the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies.
“Each university in the United States can nominate two students
for this honor. This year more than a thousand students were nominated,
and Mohamad was one of the 76 awardees for 2005-2006.”
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, established in 2000, has as its
mission to help young people with exceptional promise to reach their
full potential through education. Its scholarships identify and
support recipients in financial need who qualify and demonstrate
excellence in academic endeavors and extracurricular activities.
In addition to his latest JKC honor, Halawi was awarded a JKC Undergraduate
Scholarship during his junior year of college that covered all his
educational expenses, from tuition and books to housing.
“Much of the excitement of my journey in the United States
started in my junior year,” Halawi said. “I went from
more than 65 hours of paid work each week, to 65 hours of volunteer
work. Now I am able to do things I’ve never dreamed of doing
In addition to his two JKC scholarships and NIH fellowship, Halawi
recently was selected as the most outstanding member from among
Golden Key International Honor Society’s 350 chapters worldwide
to be named the 2005 International Student Leader of the Year. He
also was named a fellow for the Merage Foundation for the American
Dream, created to recognize promising immigrants, providing him
with a two-year stipend that he has earmarked for attending scientific
and medical conferences. Other honors include being named a Walter
and Adelheid Hohenstein Fellow by the Honor Society of Phi Kappa
Phi, as well as a Golden Key International Honor Society Graduate
Scholar, emerging as one of 12 worldwide victors from a pool of
hundreds of candidates.
“No one came over and tapped him on the shoulder,”
Estess said. “He rather took the initiative, and now he has
brought great honor to the university by the number and quality
of the national awards that he has received. We are very proud of
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research
and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers
and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate,
civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university
in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and
service with more than 35,000 students.
About the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
The UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, with nearly
400 faculty members and approximately 4,000 students, offers bachelors,
masters and doctoral degrees in the natural sciences, computational
sciences and mathematics. Faculty members in the departments of
biology and biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, geosciences,
mathematics and physics have internationally recognized collaborative
research programs in association with UH interdisciplinary research
centers, Texas Medical Center institutions and national laboratories.
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