Chem Major Valedictorian Makes Four for Four at York

For the fourth consecutive year the York College valedictorian comes from the Chemistry Department and like his three immediate predecessors, he too has plans to attend medical school.

This time, however, the valedictorian brings another academic department into the mix with Chemistry.

Muhaned Mohamed has been selected as the valedictorian for the class of 2015, but the Chemistry major is also a Psychology major. The precocious scholar came to York at 16 and has excelled throughout not only academically, but in all facets of college life.

Born and reared in Brooklyn to Egyptian and Sudanese parents, Mohamed is the fourth of his parents’ five children, to graduate from York, with the fifth and final sibling expecting to enroll for fall 2016.

It all started when eldest sibling, Khalid enrolled at a Manhattan-based CUNY senior college and found it to be too big for his needs; so he tried York and found it was just right. He majored in biology and graduated in 2009.

Their sister, Hind, graduated in 2010 with a BS/MS in Occupational Therapy; Majid, a Chemistry major, graduated in 2012 and is now pursuing an MD/PhD at the University of Texas, South Western. Now Muhaned is graduating and is already waitlisted at Washington University School of Medicine where he too, plans to pursue an MD/PhD – dual degrees again.

Asked what they like best about York, Mohamed’s response was simple.

“At York we get what we deserve,” he said. “Here you have access to the professors.”

As for why he chose Psychology as his combination major with chemistry, Mohamed explained that the two are not as dissimilar as one might think.

“I was interested in neurology and the mechanisms behind depression and bipolar disorder,” said Mohamed. “So what you don’t get to “see” in psychology, you get to ‘see’ in chemistry.”

Mohamed was always in an academic hurry, it seems. He excelled in his early education and was able to skip the second and twelfth grades, hence his arrival at York as 16 year-old freshman.  

            In his second semester in college, Mohamed commenced his research experience with Dr. Ruel Desamero, one of York’s most prolific researchers, studying phosphate metal interactions and peptide aggregation. He (Mohamed) is now working on a manuscript for submission to the Journal of Physical Chemistry. He has also worked with Biology Professor Margaret MacNeil mapping the neuroanatomy and the development of the bipolar cells in the mammalian retina.

Dr. MacNeil, has mentored award-winning York scholars into medical school from her lab in the past and Mohamed is no less a scholar.

            And if the impressively tall 19 year-old’s academic talents make it sound like doing two majors concurrently was easy while juggling numerous other responsibilities, he says far from it. But when one of your majors is psychology there are built-in perks.

            “[Pyschology professor and mentor] Dr. Lawrence Preiser,” he said. “He kept me sane. He helped me handle the double major and taught me how to keep this all together.”

In the summer of 2013, Mohamed won a competitive research position in the National Science Foundation- funded REU at University of California, Irvine where he studied proteins responsible for cataracts, the leading cause of blindness worldwide.

            He is a York College Merit Scholar, a recipient of the [Dr. Eugene] Levin scholarship for excellence in the Sciences, and has been an American Chemical Society Scholar for three years. He is also a member of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology.

            And if all this weren’t enough, Mohamed also wanted to experience study abroad opportunities too and spent two winters studying Chinese and Japanese languages in Japan and China.

            At York he has been a tutor in the Academic Achievement Center helping students struggling in chemistry, physics, biology, and calculus.  He is a senator in York’s Student Government, serving for two years as Chemistry Department representative. Mohamed became a member of the York College Swimming and Diving Team and the Track and Field Team. He is the current president of the York College Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Science Club.

            Meanwhile, Chemistry has taken itself to the next level of excellence. These days it’s not only mentoring on the undergraduate and graduate levels, but on the post-graduate level as well.  

Last fall the college graduated two CUNY PhD students trained in the subject at the college under the mentorship of Dr. Emmanuel Chang and Dr. Steven Fearnley. Three other CUNY PhD candidates are performing their thesis research at York as well, one with Dr. Chang and two with Dr. Desamero.  

But Mohamed’s Psychology mentor sums up the college’s pride best.

“What an honor for Muhaned and to have been a part of this, for me, is the culmination of what teaching is all about,” said Dr. Preiser.  “To have someone from beginning to end and have an ending such as this, [is the] ultimate achievement as a professor!”