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Stanford University School of Medicine

The “improbable journey” of one Stanford grad student

As the mom of two young girls (who are constantly hearing from me that they can grow up to be anything they want), I'm a sucker for girl-power stories. So an NPR blog piece called "They never told her that girls could become scientists" caught my eye over the weekend.

In the piece, writer Esther Landhuis tells the story of Stanford graduate student Mireille Kamariza, who was born in the small African country of Burundi, made her way to the United States when she was 17, found a "life-changing mentor" and began studying science. The reason that's so remarkable? As Landhuis explains:

In Burundi, it's rare for girls to attend college — not to mention work with world-class scientists.

'Science was something that Europeans and Americans did,' she says. 'It was for other people — not for me.' When she was in high school, she didn't have a clue about science careers. Neither did her parents.

'I never dreamed [Kamariza] would become a scientist because it is a career path that is unknown in Burundi,' says Denise Sinankwa, Kamariza's mother.

Since 2012, Kamariza has been working in the lab of chemistry professor Carolyn Bertozzi, PhD, on ways to fight tuberculosis, a disease that has stricken many in Kamariza's home country. As Landhuis writes:

Considering her improbable journey — from a child witnessing the tragedy of this disease to a young researcher contributing toward its eradication — 'the whole experience is surreal,' Kamariza says.

Previously: "Just an immigrant kid," who now leads the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Photo by Fred Tomlin; courtesy of Mireille Kamariza

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