A Conversation with Minerva Student Rinad

Meet Rinad, a student in the Class of 2019 | Mar, 26, 2018

Quick Facts

Rinad Al Anakrih

Amman, Jordan


Majors & Concentrations
Natural Sciences: Cells and Organisms
Social Sciences: Mind and Emotion


Why did you choose to attend Minerva rather than a school with a traditional campus environment?

Hmm… good question. When I was applying to multiple colleges across the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, I thought the “right fit” for me would be a traditional school — at the time, I wasn’t aware that more innovative programs existed. When I learned about Minerva, there were several determinants that factored into my decision to attend. For instance, I wanted to attend a school abroad, somewhere away from Jordan. I went to an international school in Jordan and wanted to continue to be surrounded by multiple cultures, speak English, and pursue my passion to make an impact on society.

Minerva fulfilled my criteria and more: I am able to travel across the world, meet new people, and learn parts of new languages. Furthermore, my parents and I were frustrated with the financial aid situation at traditional schools (international students don’t often receive financial aid from U.S. institutions) and having to decide which college offers the most fulfilling educational experience. Lastly, Minerva also allows students to continue providing feedback to enhance the curriculum as we go, which I find exceptional.

Why did you select your majors?

I am genuinely passionate about the sciences. I think the scientific method is a phenomenal evaluation method for how people should question and live their lives. At one point I thought I wanted to be a researcher for the rest of my life, but that was before I had experienced the difference between learning and applying the sciences (which is a pretty big difference, in my opinion). Since then, I’ve worked in two labs and realized that I care more about the learning than I had initially realized. I still do love learning about the sciences and reading or watching videos on the beauty and anomalies of our universe. In addition to the Social Sciences major, I am choosing to continue to pursue a major in Natural Sciences, because I would like to be trained well in the scientific method and apply its rigor to jobs and internships in the future.

As for social sciences, I am generally interested in social behavior and the brain. Understanding the underlying theories of cognition and emotion, along with the tools we use to study and compare one brain to the next, can help us humanize one another: to treat those who are mentally ill as people rather than an illness, express compassion toward them, and recognize their competencies and abilities.

What do you like about Minerva academics?

I like that the classes are small seminars capped at 19 students each. I love to talk in class. I love it even more when students share valuable contributions in class that spark a debate or help the entire class dig deeper into a concept or theory. My favorite classes are often the smallest ones!

What do you aspire to do when you graduate?

I aspire to go into the public health field and eventually go to graduate school to pursue a master’s in public health. I am specifically interested in addressing global health, poverty, and refugee resettlement and protection. I would love to contribute to any of these issues at a local or global level.

This summer, I would like to work in a homeless shelter in the U.S. (either in New York City or San Francisco) and/or go to Uganda to participate in activities and projects geared toward issues around water, sanitation, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and reproductive health. I have applied to several of these programs and some look promising so far.

Tell us about one challenge you’re passionate about solving in the city you live in, or will live in, while at Minerva?

I am currently in Hyderabad, which is super exciting! I love India so far. As part of my interest in public health, I would like to address issues related to reproductive health education for young girls. Many young girls in India, especially those in rural areas where reproductive health topics are taboo, do not receive the necessary education centered around their health, physical and mental changes pertaining to puberty, menstrual health, safety, rights, self-awareness, and future planning. I would like to be involved in a program that fosters the critical knowledge of these topics to allow young girls to take ownership of their own lives.

What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Minerva community?

I love the open-mindedness of the individuals that I am surrounded by, including students, staff, and faculty members. They constantly challenge me to look beyond my own values and beliefs. Being pushed out of my comfort zone in the past three years, while at Minerva, has been one of the biggest challenges of my life — and I say this proudly.

Tell us about a meaningful or thought-provoking interaction you have had with a Minerva professor.

I have had many at Minerva. My most remarkable and meaningful experiences have been with my academic advisor, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies Joshua Fost. He has helped me ask important questions about the world, pertaining to religion, science, and philosophy. The most thought-provoking topic we discussed has been religion, especially considering my background as a Muslim-born Arab woman. I was very convinced my beliefs and values were righteous and set in stone, until we began having these discussions. Our talks have led to author recommendations, podcasts, and articles. I began reading more on topics involving religion and philosophy, which has completely altered my perspective. Dean Fost has played a very important role in shaping my thinking so much over the past two years, and I am very thankful to have him as an advisor.

If you could go back in time and do one thing differently, what would you choose to do over?

I wish I had the adaptability I have now to go to different cities! After my semester in San Francisco, I was learning to better adjust to the new cities I was experiencing: Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Seoul. It was not until I got to Hyderabad that I realized I am better at adapting to new conditions, new cultures, and new traditions. I feel healthier and more internally settled transitioning from one place to the next, compared to how I felt when I first started the global rotation.

What are you currently reading (outside of class materials)?

Ooh, let me look through my Kindle:

  1. Anger and Forgiveness by Martha C. Nussbaum
  2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  3. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  4. Waking Up by Sam Harris

I usually bounce back and forth between these books and others whenever I finish my academic readings ahead of time, or when I am on a train or car ride somewhere.

Tell us about your role at the University of California, Berkeley.

I was a research assistant to Eric Greene. He mentored me throughout the experience and made me feel more confident in my ability to clone, which is fun (until you do it too many times). At the lab, I conducted techniques including molecular biology recombinant DNA cloning and biochemistry protein purification. Eric was excellent and extremely patient with me as I beginning to learn different techniques. He was a graduate student, so I was concerned about burdening him with my lack of experience, but it turns out it was a mutually beneficial experience; I learned lab techniques and he became a better mentor.

I am proud to have learned relevant lab techniques and the difference between learning and applying science. I realized that the impact of applying science operates at a much smaller scale than other fields, including public health and policy.

Why was working at this lab something you were interested in experiencing?

It was a molecular and cellular biology lab focused on the machinery of E.coli (bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals). As I had mentioned before, I love the sciences and I wanted to experience the difference between learning and applying the sciences first hand.! It was a period of exploration and my first lab experience ever. I had a lot of fun and learned many important lab techniques.

What prepared you for this role?

I did not think I was prepared enough, to be honest. I was primarily equipped with a comprehensive understanding of the scientific method, which I applied throughout my time in the lab when asking questions, making observations, and coming up with analogies. The concepts of DNA cloning, protein ubiquitination, and plasmids all made more sense when I took chemistry and genetics this year, because I learned more and read more experiments in these classes.

What were three HCs you found most relevant and useful during your internship?

The three HCs I found most relevant include:

  1. #multiplecauses: often times, the cloning experiment would go wrong. My training in this Complex Systems HC gave me a rooted understanding of how to run trials differently. I would change an independent variable: add more magnesium or take it out of the solution, to test whether that would alter the conditions and allow for successful bacterial colony growth. The complexity of the success of bacterial growth, in addition to the plasmid insertion, could always be attributed to multiple causes — factors that had to be changed in combination to help the experiment.
  2. #experimentaldesign: most of the experiments I was a part of in the lab involved control groups, independent variables (solution addition, agents), and dependent variables (bacterial growth).
  3. #rightproblem: I often ran into technical issues when running experiments involving cloning. As I stated above with the #multiplecauses HC, I needed to specify goals to resolve these obstacles. Acknowledging the problem as I had learned included isolating independent variables, evaluating situations, and the size of the problem or obstacle I was encountering in a laboratory setting.

If you were inspired by Rinad’s story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, apply to join Minerva today.