Student of the Year: Ahmad Hider

Saturday, April 9, 2016 - 6:54pm

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Grant Hardy/Daily

 

“I just love life, I really do,” LSA senior Ahmad Hider said with a wide smile at the start of the interview, with energy and enthusiasm that were present throughout the entire conversation.

Hider began by listing what he loves about his life — family, friends, basketball, food and so on. His list was endless, but he noted education as his primary focus and passion during his three years at the University. He said education is the most powerful tool one can have — it provides people opportunities to succeed, and it stays with you for life.

“I believe everyone should have all the opportunities to succeed in their lives,” he said. “You can strip someone of everything they have, but you can never strip away their education.”

For Hider, it was important to maintain a busy lifestyle to get as much out from his college education as he could. His main motivation is his family, whose early struggles motivated Hider to be passionate about education.

“I’m a first-generation college student,” Hider said. “I saw the struggles (my parents) went through. My father started at a gas station before he began working at a mechanic shop and was able to raise a family. My mom has always been the heart of the home, and I can never repay them for their sacrifices.”

Currently, Hider works as an undergraduate researcher in Haoxing Xu’s group. Xu, an associate professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, and his team study lysosomes, waste disposal systems in the cell. Without lysosomes, the waste builds up and ultimately kills the cell.

Hider is involved with a project that focused on a disease with defective lysosome functions — how mutations in a protein called TRPML1 causes the defects leading to the disease. The results were recently published in Nature Cell Biology, and Hider is one of the co-authors on this publication.

Hider said he initially put in about 10 hours a week to his experiments, but as he gained more responsibilities in the lab, he began to put in close to 30 to 40 hours a week.

“It got to a point where I went ‘you know what, I’m just going to sleep in the lab today,’ ” Hider said. “The amount of work paid off because we got a paper published in Nature, which was a major accomplishment.”

But Hider cares deeply about education for other students, too. He has taught CHEM 125 and 211, which are general chemistry and organic chemistry lab courses, respectively. Hider said he loves seeing the reactions of the students from the instructor’s perspective — another reason for him to care about teaching.

“To see the happiness and smiles on people’s faces when they learn and understand something new is amazing,” Hider said. “That really motivates me to focus on education.”

His passion for education does not stop at the University level. He is constantly keeping himself busy with his ideas — he is planning to launch a tutoring program for local elementary school students because “(education) starts there.” He envisions the tutoring to provide a more “hands-on” tutoring experience for the students.

“I just want to better the education for everyone, not just my own,” Hider said.

As for future plans, Hider said he's unsure where his passions will take him exactly, but he intends to go into the medical field to help other people because the experiences will be rewarding. Right now, cardiovascular surgery is on the top of his list, but he also has other interests.

“I really want to go into cardiovascular surgery,” Hider said. “But I always wanted to go into public health too … to focus on global health problems such as HIV.”