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KIU and Beyond: The Extraordinary Journey of Sonia Zahara



Are you ready to hear an incredible story of hard work and determination? Buckle up because we are about to take you on a journey through the life of Sonia Zahara, an alumna of the Department of Chemistry, Karakoram International University, Gilgit-Baltistan.

Sonia’s success story is an inspiring testament to the power of determination and hard work. Coming from a small town in Pakistan and graduating from an Urdu-medium high school, Sonia initially struggled with self-doubt and underestimated her own abilities. However, through her perseverance and unwavering dedication, she proved that one’s background should not limit their potential for success. This story delves into how Sonia overcame adversity and attained remarkable feats in academics and research. Despite facing limited academic opportunities, Sonia refused to accept society’s negative preconceptions that a graduate from a government school could not accomplish the extraordinary. Her narrative is about to disprove several stereotypes.

To overcome her self-doubt, she took the first step by enrolling in an English-medium college for her higher secondary education. Transitioning to a new medium of instruction came with some new obstacles, but she pushed through and made it to the top of her class. But that was just the beginning. While talking about her transition from an Urdu-medium school to an English-medium school, she said, “Although I had to work extra hard to overcome the challenges that came with attending an Urdu-medium government high school that wasn’t exactly top-ranked, I did not let that stop me from pursuing my dreams. ” She mentioned that throughout her academic journey, she had been fortunate to have had an abundance of supportive teachers who provided unwavering encouragement and guidance. She expressed her gratitude for her teachers from college who had helped her make a smooth transition from Urdu to English medium. Moreover, she acknowledged the pivotal role played by the unwavering support and mentorship of her university professors in her success story.

As an undergraduate student at Karakoram International University, she not only excelled academically by maintaining a perfect GPA, but also thrived in extracurricular activities, taking her overall performance to the next level. During her undergraduate studies, she was awarded a fully-funded scholarship (UGRAD student exchange program) to attend a university in the United States as an exchange student. She was one of only three students from KIU to receive this prestigious opportunity, which speaks volumes about her academic excellence and potential. While talking about her exchange program to the US she said “It is funny that when I got selected for the UGRAD student exchange program, some of my so-called friends tried to convince me not to go to the US alone citing I was a “girl”. Ha! Little did they know that I was unstoppable. I had Iot more friends who were very happy for me, and encouraged me.” She ended up attending Dickinson State University and earned a place on the dean’s list, which is a remarkable achievement reserved for students with excellent academic performance. Her inclusion in the dean’s list is another testament to her dedication towards her studies.

Country presentation at Dickinson State University, USA

Upon returning from the UGRAD program, she found herself falling behind in her coursework. However, she received exceptional support from her teachers in the Department of Chemistry KIU, who offered additional office hours to help her catch up on the material. She expressed her deep gratitude towards her teachers for their assistance, which enabled her to cover the course content and get back on track. In recognition of her academic excellence and outstanding performance, she was awarded a gold medal in 2019, which was reflected in her perfect CGPA of 4.0.

Receiving a gold medal from President Arif Alvi at KIU, Gilgit

After receiving her undergrad degree with distinction, she sought admission to HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry for an M. Phil. degree. And guess what? She did not stop there. She also attended a fully funded summer school at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. No big deal!!! But wait, there’s more….

Representing Pakistan at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China

In 2022, Sonia was selected by the Higher Education Commission Pakistan to attend the Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany, which is a great honor in itself. It is worth mentioning that she was among only six young researchers selected from across Pakistan. As an alumna of KIU and a girl from a small town in Pakistan, it was a remarkable achievement for her to be rubbing elbows with some of the most brilliant minds in the world. When asked about her experience at Lindau, she described it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She was surrounded by intelligent people and the world’s best scientists, and the highlight of her experience was having lunch with Nobel Laureate William G. Kaelin Jr. She couldn’t help but express her excitement and said, “I mean, can you imagine how star-struck I was? :D”

With Nobel Laureate William G. Kaelin Jr. and some young researchers from around the world

With Nobel Laureate Jean-Marie Lehn and a fellow researcher

Upon completion of her M. Phil. degree, she secured a teaching position at KIU, her alma mater, where she motivated and guided the next generation of talented students.

Upon reaching the point in her academic career where she sought to undertake a Ph.D. program, she was offered several esteemed scholarship opportunities from numerous institutions worldwide, including the ANSO scholarship for the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Fulbright scholarship, and direct admission offers from several US universities. However, she ultimately chose to attend Boston University, where her current research revolves around the Nano-Bio interface. Additionally, she is working as a teaching assistant at BU, which brings its own set of challenges.

Thus, ladies and gentlemen, that’s her tale of rising from KIU to BU, full of struggles and obstacles that cannot be explained in words but she laughed her way through them all. Because as it turns out when you work hard and never give up on your dreams, the universe has a way of rewarding you in ways you never could have imagined.

In her final remarks, she emphasized the importance of family support, especially for girls. She conveyed that families should be equally supportive of their boys and girls but girls need extra permission and support to overcome societal and cultural barriers. Without their family’s support, the journey toward success can become significantly more difficult for girls. Hence, she urged families to be supportive and provide their daughters with the necessary resources and encouragement to help them pursue their dreams and achieve success. Moreover, Sonia also expressed her wish for parents to trust their children. She believed that when parents trust their children, it instills a sense of confidence and self-belief in them, which is essential for achieving success in any field.

We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the successful alumna for sharing her inspiring story and insights with us. Her journey toward success is a testament to the power of hard work, determination, and perseverance, and we are grateful for the opportunity to learn from her experiences. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors and hope that she continues to inspire others to pursue their dreams and achieve success.

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KIU’s formative impact catalyzes a series of significant accomplishments: Syed Sibt-e-Hassan’s Success Story



Syed Sibt-e-Hassan’s remarkable odyssey commences in the distant enclave of Minapin in Gilgit Baltistan. His narrative stands as a testament to the transformative power of education. He started his early education in Skardu and then he moved to Hunza where he completed his secondary education. Despite modest scholastic achievements in Skardu and Hunza, the trajectory of his life took a promising turn when he enrolled in the Department of Chemistry, at Karakoram International University (KIU) in 2013. This decision, a pivotal juncture, sets the stage for a brighter future.

Emerging from a less-than-stellar academic background, Sibt-e-Hassan’s tale takes an enthralling twist upon entering Department of Chemistry, Karakoram International University. Although resource constraints shadow the university, it emerges as the nurturing ground for his aspirations. The Chemistry faculty imparts a robust foundation, defying challenges and illustrating the potential of achieving greatness with limited means. In 2017, Sibt-e-Hassan completed his undergraduate journey at KIU, earning a distinctive silver medal for his unwavering diligence.

KIU’s formative impact catalyzes a series of significant accomplishments. A turning point emerges as Sibt-e-Hassan gains admission to the esteemed HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry in Pakistan. Through rigorous effort, he penned research papers during his master’s pursuit, a milestone reflecting his thirst for knowledge. In the same eventful year of 2019, he concluded his MPhil studies with a stellar paper, embarking on a PhD voyage within the same institution. This underscores his resolute dedication to the pursuit of learning.

Yet, the narrative unfolds further! Sibt-e-Hassan secured the prestigious Commonwealth Split-Site Scholarship, affording him a transformative year of research on electrocatalysis in the United Kingdom. This scholarship, a testament to his academic prowess, serves as a pivotal chapter in his journey, fortified by the bedrock of education he received at KIU.

Reflecting on his remarkable trajectory, Sibt-e-Hassan’s expedition underscores the profound impact of education and tenacity. KIU, though modest in its resources, emerges as a guiding light. His gratitude extends to KIU and the mentors who illuminated his path, shaping him into a paragon of success. His voyage imparts the profound lesson that perseverance coupled with opportune moments can propel individuals toward remarkable achievements.

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Dr. Adeeba’s Resilience: A Journey of Triumph and Inspiration



Once upon a time, nestled in the serene village of Govach, there lived a remarkable young woman named Adeeba. From her early years, it was clear that she was destined for greatness. Despite the challenges of growing up in a small village, Adeeba displayed an insatiable thirst for knowledge and an unyielding determination to overcome any obstacles in her path.

Adeeba’s academic journey began at the Federal Government Girls High School No.1 in Gilgit. Throughout her schooling, she demonstrated exceptional dedication and earned her Secondary School Certificate with an impressive 60.35% marks. Her achievements continued as she graduated from Al-Mustafa Public School and College with a Higher School Certificate, securing 61.36% marks in 2009. One of the defining aspects of Adeeba’s success was the support she received from her teachers. She fondly remembered the caring and inspiring educators who guided her along the way, their names etched in her memory as a testament to their influence on her life. After completing her intermediate education, Adeeba’s dreams soared even higher. She gained admission to the Department of Chemistry at Karakoram International University, where her passion for the subject truly blossomed. With unwavering determination, she graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Organic Chemistry, amassing an impressive 74% marks. Her journey was marked by rigorous studies and dedication, a reflection of her father’s belief in providing his children with the best education possible.

Guided by her mentor Dr. Iftikhar Alis’s encouragement and her own thirst for knowledge, Adeeba’s aspirations reached new heights. In 2014, she secured a coveted spot at the H.E.J. Research Institute of Chemistry at the University of Karachi. Under the mentorship of the esteemed Prof. Dr. Syed Ghulam Musharraf, Adeeba embarked on a path of research and discovery that would shape her future. Years of dedication and hard work culminated in November 2017, when Dr. Adeeba proudly completed her M.Phil. degree with a remarkable GPA of 3.98, achieving the highest GPA in her class. This achievement not only showcased her intellectual prowess but also demonstrated her unwavering commitment to academic excellence. Her accomplishments during this period laid the foundation for her future endeavors.

The thirst for knowledge and the desire to push boundaries didn’t stop there. Dr. Adeeba’s pursuit of academic excellence led her to enroll in a Ph.D. program in 2018, once again at the H.E.J. Research Institute of Chemistry. The next five years were a testament to her endurance, as she navigated the complexities of doctoral research. In 2023, her determination bore fruit as she successfully completed her Ph.D. with a GPA of 3.90.

In 2018, Dr. Adeeba marked another milestone in her academic journey by publishing her first research article in the esteemed journal “Spectrochimica Acta Part A: Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy.” This publication was a testament to her dedication to advancing scientific knowledge and her ability to contribute meaningfully to her field.

In the bustling city of Karachi, amidst the chaotic rhythm of life, a remarkable woman named Dr. Adeeba embarked on a journey that would not only transform her own life but inspire countless others. Her story is one of determination, resilience, and unwavering dedication. Balancing the demands of academic rigor with the responsibilities of being a mother was perhaps her greatest challenge. In the midst of her Ph.D. pursuit, in the year 2020, she was blessed with a son. This pivotal moment could have easily caused her to waver, but Dr. Adeeba’s spirit remained unbroken. She refused to let the complexities of motherhood hinder her progress. While juggling the demands of research and motherhood, Dr. Adeeba managed to shine brightly in her academic pursuits.

Yet, Dr. Adeeba’s journey was not one of solitude. She stood strong thanks to the unwavering support of her loved ones. Her sister and her son stood by her side, their presence a source of strength in the face of adversity. Additionally, she was immensely grateful to her beloved husband and her father-in-law, whose encouragement and understanding allowed her to thrive even in the most challenging times.

She expressed her gratitude towards her mentors, particularly Dr. Iftikhar Ali and Prof. Dr. S.G. Musharraf. These guiding lights recognized her potential and provided the support and mentorship she needed to navigate the treacherous waters of academia. Their wisdom and guidance were instrumental in shaping her into the brilliant researcher she had become.

In 2023, the world recognized her brilliance and potential. Two remarkable postdoctoral offers graced her doorstep: one from the University of Houston, USA, for a year, and the other from Zhejiang University, China, for an impressive three-year term. After careful consideration, Adeeba chose to spread her wings at Zhejiang University, a renowned institution that stood among the best in the world. Dr. Adeeba’s upcoming postdoctoral research at Zhejiang University, under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Daniel Henry Scharf, will involve the development of an efficient method for producing diketopiperazine derivatives. The focus will also encompass the synthesis of highly effective cytotoxic epidithiodiketopiperazines, strategically designed for further derivatization. Additionally, the research aims to make strides towards achieving the complete synthesis of the tetrapetalones.

In the vast realm of academia, where knowledge and innovation converge, there are individuals who shine like beacons of inspiration, guiding others through their unwavering dedication and remarkable achievements. Dr. Adeeba’s story is one such tale of relentless perseverance and a commitment to excellence.

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Embracing Challenges: Gul Rukhsar’s Remarkable Journey



Let’s introduce one of the alumni of the Department of Chemistry, Karakoram International University Ms. Gul Rukhsar. Hailing from the beautiful valley of the district of Ghizer. She has completed her early education in Gahkuch, Ghizer. Gul Rukhsar’s journey is a striking example of how determination, hard work, and self-belief can lead to incredible success. From an early age, she displayed a natural love for learning, consistently achieving top positions in her lower classes. This dedication opened doors, and she gained admission to Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Gahkuch, an esteemed institution that not only expanded her knowledge but also nurtured essential life skills like effective communication and confidence. She spent four years in school and college then in 2015 she was admitted to Karakoram International University

Continuing her education, Gul Rukhsar pursued her passion for chemistry at Karakoram International University, Gilgit. Despite her achievements, doubts from friends and relatives about her university choice weighed on her. However, she remained silent, letting her actions speak for themselves.

With resolute determination, she threw herself into her studies, recognizing that actions define one’s journey. Throughout university, she maintained an exceptional academic record, silencing doubts and reinforcing her commitment. She also works on a research project under the supervision of Dr. Muhammad Ismail on the topic of “Evaluation of Pulsatilla wallachina for Insecticidal Activity” and then she graduated in January 2019 from Karakoram International University with an exceptional CGPA of 3.91.

Photo taken in HUST during the celebration of New Year

Gul Rukhsar’s accomplishments extend beyond academics. She honed skills like critical thinking, writing, and effective communication. Her belief in a sound mind and body led her to participate in sports like volleyball, badminton, and cricket at different levels.

Equally inspiring is her dedication to community service. As an active member of the Character Building Society during university, she fought against injustice. Her volunteer efforts included organizing educational events and uplifting gatherings, showing her commitment to giving back. This spirit of service started early, with Gul Rukhsar becoming a junior guide at seven.

Photo taken at the end of the sports competition arranged for Chinese and international students at HUST

A photo taken in a Chinese language class with international students

Beyond her studies, Gul Rukhsar dreamt of studying abroad. She navigated scholarship opportunities with focus and dedication, ultimately securing admission to well-regarded institutions in Pakistan and China. Choosing Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), she embarked on a journey that would test her resilience. Then she Joined HUST in 2019 September on a fully funded Chinese government scholarship.

Arriving at HUST, cultural differences and language barriers initially challenged her. Despite the isolation, she overcame these hurdles, learning Chinese, forming friendships, and familiarizing herself with her new environment.

Then, the unexpected hit—the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted everything. Instead of succumbing to frustration, Gul Rukhsar used this time to explore new avenues, taking online courses, honing artistic skills, and delving into cooking.

When academic activities resumed, she returned to the lab, adapting to the equipment and environment. However, her greatest challenge lay in her research—a field unfamiliar in her home country. Doubts plagued her, but with unwavering family support, she persevered.

The photo was taken with her research group, supervisor and team , during a dinner party after the defense.

Gul Rukhsar’s determination yielded remarkable results and she was able to secure 87.91 % – not only did she complete her research, but she also secured publication in a prestigious journal.

Her recent published paper in Journal of Organic Chemistry

Her journey vividly illustrates that challenges are, indeed, catalysts for personal growth. Despite of very busy schedule, she tried her best to participate in different volunteer work such as arranging parties in HUST on behalf of the Department of Chemistry as well as helping international students during COVID-19 and showed her active participation in sports.

Receiving certificate for her dedicated service to the Pakistan Students Community in HUST

Then she returned to her home country in August 2023. Returning to Pakistan, she sought solace with her family and friends, recharging her energy and enthusiasm for her forthcoming PhD journey.

Her story took an uplifting turn as she qualified for a revered institution, Aga Khan Higher Secondary School Gilgit, immediately upon her return. After dedicating a month to her service there, she accomplished yet another feat by earning a position as a Teaching Associate of Chemistry at the University of Baltistan. Presently, she is actively engaged in mentoring young minds, eager to share her experiences and knowledge.

Her transformation is evident as she now finds immense satisfaction in lab work and teaching. What brings her profound happiness is her role in preparing these young learners to face global challenges. She recognizes the critical importance of research and lab work in equipping them to compete on an international stage.

Gul Rukhsar’s journey epitomizes the power of resilience and tenacity. From her own journey of surmounting challenges, she now stands as an inspiring educator, nurturing the next generation and fostering their potential to shine on the world stage.

Photo taken while performing an activity of making Chinese knot (zhongguo jie)

Photo with her labmate in lab at HUST

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