Going Far: Seminole State and UCF DirectConnect alumna off to Duke for PhD

Friday, February 22, 2019
Written by: Lauren Leetun for Seminole State

Latifah Maasarani sort of laughs when she considers that she is moving toward a STEM career, given that she never really considered science, technology, engineering and mathematics as a pursuit or passion until she arrived at Seminole State College of Florida. She knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur, having founded a clothing company at 18, so she initially thought she would track toward a business degree. However, a chemistry course sparked an interest in drug discovery and working with various diseases to try to make a difference, and thus, her trajectory changed. She even served as president of Seminole State’s STEM Club during the 2015-16 academic year.

Fast forward a few semesters and Maasarani was sitting in an honors physics course, when she was introduced to the concept of optics and photonics for the first time. It was like a lightbulb went off and she knew this was what she was meant to do.

After receiving the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship in 2016, Maasarani utilized DirectConnect™ to UCF and transferred into the University of Central Florida’s College of Optics & Photonics (CREOL) to pursue her bachelor’s degree in photonic science engineering and is graduating in May 2019 with honors. Starting in the fall 2019, she will be attending Duke University for a doctorate in Biomedical Engineering.

Maasarani says Seminole State gave her the foundation to succeed.

“As a Seminole State student, I took part in the Grindle Honors Institute which allowed me to pursue independent research on optics with my physics professor, Dr. Sherry Savrda. The skills I learned during my independent research courses prepared me to participate in the DirectConnect program,” said Maasarani. “Having direct admittance to UCF allowed me to pursue my dream degree in a world-renowned college.” 

While at UCF, she was able to transfer into the Burnett Honors College and also continued her leadership activities by becoming the president of the Society of Optics Students at UCF, which led to her involvement in and recognition by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. In SPIE, she was part of the Engineering Science and Technology Policy Committee, working on public policy as well as research and development funding.

She also received the 100 percent merit-based Astronaut Scholarship and the UCF Founder’s Day Award, which is given to only one student per college, nominated by the dean of that college for their academic achievements and leadership abilities.

When asked how the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship has impacted her life, she states it gave her a sense of belonging by introducing her to other high-achieving students and providing her with a community of “Cookie Cousins” she could have never imagined she’d be part of.

About Seminole State College

Seminole State College of Florida, established in 1965, serves nearly 30,000 students across six sites in Central Florida. A comprehensive college, Seminole State has awarded more than 100,000 credentials, from bachelor's degrees to high school diplomas, and offers more than 200 degrees, certificates and programs designed for success. For more about the college, visit seminolestate.edu
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About the Grindle Honors Institute

The Grindle Honors Institute offers programs for academically talented students who want to enrich their experience and engage in honors activities at Seminole State College of Florida. For more information, please visit the Grindle Honors Institute website.