Rizwan Saffie '14
by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
October 20, 2013
Rizwan Saffie '14 takes a break from his work as a 2013 summer intern at Princeton University's Kang Lab. He is currently applying to Ph.D. programs in molecular biology.
In three short
years, Guyana native Rizwan Saffie ’14 has made a distinctive mark on campus. Saffie
began to research the genetic reprogramming of leukemia cells as a sophomore; a
year later, he presented his work at the American
Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting, a conference that drew over 18,000 cancer researchers
from around the world. Saffie also was among the 72 students selected
nationally to participate in Princeton
University's Summer Undergraduate Research Program in Molecular and Computational
Biology, and he’s honed his leadership skills through his work as a club
officer, intern and resident advisor (RA).
Biochemistry & molecular biology
Photography Club (I joined in my
freshman year and am now an executive member of the club), Center for
Sustainability Education (I worked two years there as the greenhouse-gas-emissions
inventory intern and media intern), Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Lamba Delta, RA.
When, for the second year in a row, I ranked number one in Guyana for my
performance in British A-level exams. I choose this accomplishment not because
I am ecstatically proud of it but because it made my family and friends very
proud. It was nice for both me and them to see all my hard work pay off.
In spring 2011 I took American Studies 101: Race, Gender, Sexuality and
Power in the U.S. For the first time, I got to talk and learn about things in
class that one would never dare talk about in a classroom back home. That
introduction to the topic fueled my interest in social justice and politics.
As I kid, I wanted to be
. . .
I've always had great interest in finding out how things work. Growing
up, I carried out my own little experiments in my backyard in rural Guyana. I was
fascinated by science and the scientific method.
George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (best known as
the book behind the TV series Game of
Thrones). Martin does a great job telling the intricate story of a dynastic
war for control of a fantastic kingdom.
I have an obsession with the French language and independent French
My parents, Munir and Basmattie. They have always tried their best to
support me, even in the most difficult situations. They did not have much
growing up, and I really admire their strength and their dedication to me and
This is a tough one, but [Associate Professor of Biology] Michael Roberts
definitely has shown great interest in seeing me—and all of his students—succeed.
He is terrific at translating his vast knowledge into understandable lectures
and explanations, and I learned a lot from him as a student in his class and as
a research assistant in his lab. He also has offered very useful advice about
the graduate-school application process. Like many of my peers, I consider him a
Most important thing I’ve learned so far:
Always be enthusiastic about learning and have an open mind. You will
meet great people, do great things and learn so much about yourself and the
I am currently applying to Ph.D. programs in
molecular biology. Last summer I worked in the Kang Lab at Princeton University
and I fell in love with research.
What Dickinson has given me:
I am thankful to Dickinson for countless experiences, but it’s the
relationships I’m most thankful for. I am indebted to the many friends that I
have made along the way—students, professors, friends from CSE—who come from
all over the U.S. and around the world.
Favorite place on campus:
Racquetball courts in the Kline Center! I enjoy taking breaks to play (i.e., defeat) my friends in a match or two.
Favorite Dining Hall food:
Death-by-chocolate cake. Yum!
I love photography and cooking. (The fact that I can cook surprises most
If I could have dinner with anyone (living or
dead), it would be . . .
Walter Rodney, a Guyanese thinker and activist who had very interesting
ideas about race and power in my country. I would love to have a conversation
about these topics with him, because they play such an important role in the politics of my homeland. Sadly, he was assassinated at a young age and could
not finish the amazing work he had started.
Why I chose Dickinson:
An advisor from high school suggested that I apply. After obsessively
researching the school, I was won over by reports of the dedicated science
faculty and the small size and warmth of the community. I applied for Early
Decision, got in with a very generous financial-aid package and came to the U.S.
for my very first time. It has been an amazing and enlightening journey.