A woman in a restaurant smiles.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Yasmeen AlFaraj

Categories: Research, Students

Chemistry Graduate Student Yasmeen AlFaraj describes her research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.

Yasmeen AlFaraj, a rising fourth year in Professor Jeremiah Johnson’s lab, is  originally from AlQatif, a small oasis in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

Yasmeen’s work currently focuses on the development of data driven approaches for the accelerated discovery of novel materials with predicted materials properties. “I’m so excited to be working in this space as it allows me to bridge my love for chemistry with my love for sustainable policies,” she said. “I think I had many reasons for pursuing a PhD in Chemistry, not least my enjoyment of chemistry and research, but it can probably best be summarized to feeling like all the career paths that pique my interest could greatly benefit from a specialized chemical understanding, and that I felt like the analytical skillset obtained throughout it would greatly challenge me in my learning, and benefit me regardless of what I ended up doing.”

As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Yasmeen shares some small things that improve her day, the skill she’d learn if she didn’t have to sleep, her irrational fear, and more!

  1. If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
    Learn how to parkour so I can join my cat Namla’s 3 AM parkour tour around my apartment.
  2. What is on your bucket list?
    More important than my lifelong bucket list is my grad school bucket list, which includes but isn’t limited to: refuse to graduate before securing a Tornado Sport 3000 Foosball table for building 18, attending (ONE) boat party, and convince a large enough group of people to do high tea in small and ridiculous hats.
  3. What are some small things that make your day better?
    Area Four’s chocolate chai, phone calls with my siblings, and having tea when it rains or snows.
  4. What’s the funniest TV show you’ve ever seen?
    Probably Family Business on Netflix
  5. If you could know the truth behind every conspiracy, but you would instantly die if you hinted that you knew the truth, would you want to know?
    Absolutely not. My facial expressions are a dead giveaway and COVID mask mandates doubly protected me: from spreading germs and from inadvertently showcasing what I think. I’d do a terrible job masking any knowledge I have.
  6. What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
    There is a specific study of the Arabic language that roughly translates to the Art of Eloquence, which deals with word play, poetry, and double entendres. Without a doubt, I would spend 40 minutes going into how this was used to clap back without seeming rude back in the day.
  7. What irrational fear do you have?
    Butterflies. They have no sense for personal space, and I cannot for the life of me understand why people find them beautiful.
  8. What is special about the place you grew up?
    I grew up on the Saudi Aramco compound in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which was a microcosm of its own. Women could drive here when it was not yet ratified in the Kingdom, my neighbours were Saudi, South African, American, and Indian. It was incredibly safe, and you could walk through the compound end-to-end in a few hours. This was especially interesting because my extended family and schooling all happened outside of this space, so it almost felt like I lived in two different Saudis.
  9. Who is the most famous person you have met?
    I once nearly grabbed a french fry off the table next to me at a restaurant, only to look up and see Tyronn Lue (coach of the Cleveland Cavs @ the time) and 7 other men looking back at me. They were very kind about it.
  10. If you could pick any career other than the one you’ve chosen, what would it be?
    Writer or lawyer.
  11. What are your top three favorite movies?
    Mohamed Diab’s Clash, Everything Everywhere All At Once, V for Vendetta
  12. What two things are terrible when separate but great when you put them together?
    I can’t stand eggs or tomatoes… but a shakshouka? Sign me up any day.
  13. If someone narrated your life, who would you want to be the narrator?
    My younger brothers. I have no doubt their commentary would humble me.
  14. What would be the best thing you could reasonably expect to find in a cave?
    Probably pit caving formations for a natural skylight
  15. If animals could talk, which animal do you think would be the most annoying, and why?
    Cicadas… they make the list as is.
  16. If you could have a never-ending candle that smelled like anything you wanted, what fragrance would you want it to be?Yasmeen Razqi (jasmines native to my hometown) and seawater.
  17. What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
    It’s probably a tie between Cusco/Sacred Valley in Peru, or Puerto Rico. Both trips entailed new experiences: hiking up Tipon and exploring the Amazon; night kayaking with bioluminescent algae and cave exploration.
  18. What’s something common from your childhood that will seem strange to future generations?
    Leaving home without a phone on your person and with no concept of the passage of time, except to head home “when it gets dark”
  19. What was your favorite book as a child, and what is your favorite book now?
    Hard to pick a single favourite, but for childhood it’s probably between Best Lowly Worm Book Ever and the Velveteen Rabbit; and right now it’s between The Body Keeps the Score and Machete Season.
  20. What is something that a ton of people are obsessed with but you just don’t get the point of?
    Game of Thrones. Once upon a time I felt like I had to elaborate…but I don’t think that’s quite the case anymore.

Many thanks to Yasmeen for these thoughtful answers! Stay tuned for more Graduate Student Spotlights in the months to come!