Soul of a Poet, Mind of a Scientist

Usman Hameedi '12
Mike Lovett
Usman Hameedi '12

Usman Hameedi ’12, a member of the first Science Posse, describes himself this way: “Scientist. Artist. Nerd. Brown. Wielder of microphones and pipettes.”

In his first year at Brandeis, Hameedi breezed through his introductory chemistry class. Many Science Posse Scholars find their first semester academically overwhelming. But his high-school AP chemistry teacher had prepared him for college-level chemistry.

Sophomore year was a different story. “I felt so lost,” Hameedi says. As a result of the challenges they’d faced a year earlier, his Posse classmates had mastered time management and acquired strong study skills. They knew about professors’ office hours. They’d learned how to prep for class, methodically conduct experiments and write lab reports. “To really learn how to study, you have to be thrown into the deep end and struggle for a bit,” Hameedi says.

His second-year setback was temporary. He went on to major in biology and minor in chemistry; creative writing; and Health: Science, Society and Policy.

“Posse gives you the resources to get through Brandeis and go beyond,” he says. “You become like a family. We still are like family.”

After graduating, he worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City with hospital president and CEO Craig Thompson, one of the country’s most prominent scientists. He helped to establish the cell metabolism laboratory there.

The son of Pakistani immigrants, Hameedi recently earned a master’s in biomedical sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York, and now works at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston.

Brandeis didn’t nurture only the scientist in him, Hameedi says. “I didn’t want my college experience to be ‘I took classes, I studied for tests,’” he says. “I wanted to challenge myself outside of my comfort zone.”

In 2009, Hameedi founded the Brandeis Slam Team, a spoken-word poetry group he served as coach and captain of for two years. He also organized the Brandeis Open-Mic Series, a biweekly competitive poetry slam.

Hameedi has the soul of a poet and the mind of a scientist. “At Brandeis, I had the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I always wanted to take these risks,’” he notes. “Brandeis let me try.”

— L.G.