If there’s one take-away from hearing Mustafa’s story, it might be about the vast and deep potential of countless young people that goes unrealized. Mustafa’s story isn’t one of those – but could easily have been at several stops along his journey.
“It’s a miracle that I graduated high school,” he says, “with a 1.7 GPA, not counting my freshman year which averaged 0.7. However, something I am proud of was receiving recognition and honors on my Golden State Exams.” He was a smart kid who aced tests and mechanical engineering projects, but skipped the homework. “I loved learning, but sadly held myself back academically. I just didn’t make the time.”
One distraction was BMX bike racing and freestyle dirt jumping; Mustafa was nationally ranked and sponsored until his freshman year when he crashed, ending his racing career. “Significant financial hardship necessitated my getting a job that summer and keeping it. Seven years of working 40 to 90 hours a week passed since high school.” While working, he took community college courses, raised his GPA and started to visualize his future.
Always fascinated by applied science and technology, “I spent more and more of my time admiring the mathematical beauty of what we know so far about our universe. My passion for mathematics, physics and engineering reached a critical point when I almost lost my mother. I realized life was too precious to be spent doing things I didn’t love, and I rejoined academia committed.” He demonstrated this commitment after finally being accepted into UC San Diego. Among some of the best scholars in the world, I’ve been given the chance to focus on my studies, earning provost honors with straight A’s.”
Mustafa was tested again through “the most traumatic experience I have ever had,” the cruel and drawn-out loss of his father to Alzheimer’s. “I was trapped in a cycle of guilt for allowing my father to suffer as he did.” Though it came close to derailing Mustafa’s education and future, he pushed through and kept his dream on track, and his eyes on a June 2018 graduation.
“I am here to earn my degree in physics and math with applied science in the presence of the best and brightest, followed by a specialized Ph.D. allowing me to do my own research.
“I get excited thinking about the discovery of a precise theory of turbulence, or viable fusion reactor. I believe that advancing our energy production and efficiency will highlight our priceless resources, health and education. I feel their scarcity impedes the lines of communication, allowing divisive rhetoric to dominate the public dialogue. It is my hope that advances in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) will in turn allow for a global investment in our children’s education and health, leaving a better world to them then we inherited; I consider this my life’s ultimate work.”