NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- With all the accolades New Rochelle High School senior Zahra Masih has been accumulating for her research in cancer treatments, it may be surprising to hear that she hadn't settled on science as a career goal when she entered the school.
"I came in with the mindset that I am going to try everything and I will shut my doors as I go along and whatever is left over, that's what I'll pursue," she said.
She narrowed the field to science over the course of two summer internships at Regeneron, the Tarrytown-based pharmaceutical company, researching cancer treatments.
In March, she presented her research at the 33rd Annual Upstate Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. She was one of several students spotlighted by New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson in his March 1 State of the City Address. Earlier this month, she received the Technology Award from the New Rochelle Fund for Educational Excellence, becoming one of four seniors honored at the Fund's 20th anniversary gala.
"She's one of the hardest working, most polite young women I have come across in my career," said Jeff Wuebber, director of the NRHS Science Research Program, in which Masih is enrolled. "She is beyond helpful to her classmates, especially to the underclassmen. She has gone so far out of her way at times to help out that it has been really remarkable."
In a completely different direction, she published a paper in the International Journal of Economics and Financial Issues last year on the connection between defense spending and economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. That was a tribute to her grandfather, who has a passion for economics, a discipline that several generations of Masih's family have pursued.
"I thought that if there was one way that I could give back to him and show him that his efforts have made an impact in my life, it would be to publish," she said.
Heading to Cornell University in the fall, she's leaning toward majoring in the biological sciences, perhaps with a minor in the visual arts.
"I would like to keep those two sides of me alive; I think it would be a nice balance," she said. "But I'm completely open to the idea of college changing people. If I find something and I like it better, I'm completely up for that, too."