The son of a physician, Laith Almashharawi chose the pre-med path when he made the decision to attend the University of Missouri, and the biochemistry degree program at MU offered him exactly what he was looking for.
Almashharawi grew up in Columbia and attended Rock Bridge High School, and said Mizzou was his first choice when it came to secondary education options. He was already familiar with the campus, plus he wanted to stay close to family.
Almashharawi said the biochemistry degree program was the perfect mix of his interest areas as well – and he already knew some of the professors in the program.
“I knew I wanted to be pre-med, but I didn’t want a program solely focused on biology, chemistry or physics,” Almashharawi said. “Biochemistry was the perfect mix for me. There’s a look at chemistry and quite a bit of math, all in a biological context.”
When Almashharawi graduates in May, he will actually earn two degrees. Along with his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, he will graduate with a degree in film studies.
“I’m the type of person who likes to jump into things, and I knew I wanted to pursue both of these degrees, so I just went for it,” Almashharawi said. “I tumbled through balancing both degrees at the beginning, but I soon found a rhythm and realized it was really all about time management. I’ve learned that I had to schedule things out in advance and keep things all lined up. I’ve always had a pretty consistent to-do list.”
Almashharawi said a handful of professors in the biochemistry degree program made a major impact on him, including Shari Freyermuth, associate teaching professor; Thomas Reilly, assistant teaching professor; and Ritcha Mehra-Chaudhary, assistant teaching professor.
“Biochemistry is definitely a tough degree program, and the courses early on are very difficult,” Almashharawi said. “As you advance in the program, you start to understand why the professors push you so hard early in the program – they’re doing their best to set each student up for success. They make it tough for a reason and want to see us succeed. As I head toward graduation and reflect on everything, I really appreciate how hard they pushed me.”
While Almashharawi’s course load as a double major kept him plenty busy, he was also in a couple of different clubs. He was part of Pre-Med Scholars and served as vice president for a year with Mizzou HOSA – Future Health Professionals. Almashharawi was also president of the Muslim Student Organization last year and has spent his senior year serving as education chair.
Almashharawi also joined the Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM), where he gained hands-on learning experiences through a legislative internship. Almashharawi did work in a research laboratory at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital for two years, but his third year was cut short due to the pandemic. Almashharawi pursued the legislative internship through ASUM since he wasn’t able to continue to conduct research. The internship included work at the capitol.
“I didn’t have much of an opportunity to do much bench research because of the pandemic, which was obviously disappointing,” Almashharawi said. “I wanted to find something to do in the meantime as the medical opportunities weren’t available since hospitals were so overwhelmed. I had been part of the debate team in high school, and when the pandemic hit, I realized I should probably have a better understanding of politics, as it seemed like that was a popular topic. It was a really great experience.”
After graduation, Almashharawi will stay at MU for medical school. He said his goal is to eventually become a physician, and he is also interested in doing film projects.
“I can’t even describe how happy I am to get into medical school,” Almashharawi said. “I really wanted to stay here, as I have built numerous foundations in Columbia. I want to build on the communities and knowledge I’ve gained as an undergraduate. I already know some of the professors and doctors, so I can’t wait to get going. I’m also excited to see how the film program continues to grow. I want to be around to help out when and where I can.
“Ideally, I would love to be a physician and do film on the side in the future. The physician work tends to my science brain and film allows me to show off my creativity. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”