Student Story

Inspired to Expand a Summer Research Project into an Independent Study

Leila Aydibi ’24

“Simmons has encouraged me to embrace my leadership qualities.”

An interview with Simmons senior Leila Aydibi ’24.

What are the most impactful things you have done over the last four years?

Initiating my college education as a first-generation student and honing my study habits, time management, and work experience. I actively participated in the Biology Club on campus, serving as the DEI officer, and contributed to the Student Government Association as the Senate Financial Committee Chair for two years. Additionally, I facilitated Japanese students’ integration into Boston’s college life and volunteered with food banks and housing programs in San Diego. I also attended and presented at conferences in DC and RI regarding my senior thesis. I engaged in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program at Simmons (SURPASs) and the Passionate Leaders Project (PLP). I made lifelong friendships. Furthermore, for the past three years, I’ve been dedicated to my role at a thoracic surgery unit at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. On a personal level, I refined my cooking skills and had the privilege of meeting some exceptional professors during my education journey.

Did your course of study involve internship opportunities?

As a Biology major on the pre-PA track with a Chemistry minor, I had the option of interning or studying abroad, but I prioritized my role at the Brigham and Women's Hospital. For my capstone project, I chose to expand upon my summer research and developed it into an independent study for my thesis.

Tell us about the research project(s) that you pursued at Simmons.

My research project, which began with SURPASs, evolved into my senior thesis and independent study. It focuses on exploring the experiences of Muslims within the Massachusetts healthcare system. By shedding light on the challenges faced by Muslims in healthcare, my study aims to contribute to a better understanding of healthcare disparities and foster inclusivity in healthcare delivery.

Note: Aydibi received a Senior Scholar award for this research.

Tell us about your unique experience as a first-generation college student.

Starting college as a first-generation student adds an extra layer of uncertainty because everything is new, and you don’t know what to expect. Personally, being organized and seeking guidance from advisors and professors at Simmons has been crucial in navigating this journey.

What was your favorite course at Simmons and why?

I’ve enjoyed numerous courses at Simmons, spanning various departments, such as Introduction to Nutrition, Criminal Law, World Religions, Caring at the End of Life, Introduction to Sociology, and many more. However, my all-time favorite has to be Anatomy and Physiology I & II, both taught by Senior Lab Manager of the Department of Biology Jyl Richards. The subject matter aligned perfectly with my interests, and the professor’s teaching style made the classes engaging. I never felt obligated to study but rather eagerly looked forward to it.

What is your favorite Simmons memory?

My favorite Simmons memory is the volunteer trip to San Diego, CA, where we learned about and assisted with food and housing insecurity. I formed incredible friendships during that trip, and it was a profoundly eye-opening experience filled with various emotions that I’ll cherish forever.

How has Simmons taught you to be a leader?

I believe holding various roles on and off-campus has naturally placed me in leadership positions, but Simmons has encouraged me to embrace my leadership qualities even more.

What advice do you have for current and incoming Simmons students?

Reach out for assistance when needed from friends, professors, advisors or other support networks. Try to be active in campus clubs and be involved in such groups; it’s also a way to make new friends.

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Kathryn Dickason