President’s Medal to Kaheerman Saibire

Kaheerman Saibire

Kaheerman Saibire / Marc Studer photo

An international student from China and a member of the Uyghur ethnic minority, Kaheerman Saibire learned to speak English less than four years ago. Now she has been selected to receive University of Washington Bothell’s 2019 President’s Medal. The medalist is chosen from among those who have a GPA in the top 2% of the graduating class in their program.

Saibire, who goes by Sabira, is a Biology major and Chemistry minor and plans to graduate from UW Bothell at the end of summer quarter. After working to save money, she hopes to attend medical school and become a surgeon, eventually returning to China.

A record of achievement

“Sabira’s story is one of amazing achievement,” said Chancellor Wolf Yeigh. “She has excelled academically while overcoming language and financial obstacles. We are confident she will reach her goal of becoming a physician.

“The UW Bothell community is extremely proud to call her one of our own,” he said.

Saibire’s record is impressive. She learned English in a year, received an associate degree at South Seattle College in another year and then transferred to UW Bothell in fall 2017. She made the dean’s list every quarter.  In spring quarter 2019, she had a 3.97 GPA.

“It was extremely hard to learn English in a very short period of time and jump into major studying,” she said. “I struggled, but I overcame the obstacles.”

Saibire started research under the mentorship of Assistant Professor Thelma Madzima and received a Mary Gates scholarship this year. She presented her work on environmental stress on corn seedlings at the Undergraduate Research Symposium on the UW campus in Seattle.

Saibire said she enjoyed presenting her poster to a wider audience of nonbiologists, including the parents of other students. “I tried to let them understand something, even when they didn't know what I was talking about,” she said.

Outside of her course work and research, Saibire works as a student assistant at UW Bothell’s Center for International Education. She also volunteers in the COPE Health Scholars program at Swedish Medical Center and job-shadows doctors at Harborview Medical Center.

An eye to the future

After she graduates, Saibire can work in the United States because of her degree from the School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. She’d prefer to work in a hospital or lab for the experience. Saibire is willing to go anywhere in the country for work and then medical school, although she’d like to try somewhere on the East Coast.

“There is a less than a 1% acceptance rate for international students at medical schools, with fewer than 50 medical schools taking international students,” Saibire said. “Therefore, I will go anywhere that accepts me.”

In nominating letters for the President’s Medal, her professors called Saibire an extremely strong science student with a passion for helping others with diverse backgrounds. She co-founded an international students advisory board to share practical advice, such as how to find U.S. jobs in the federal Optional Practice Training program.

Saibire believed she could receive the President’s Medal but was nonetheless surprised. “It’s just the proof, the recognition for hard work.”




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