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Undergraduate student Latifah Maasarani receives Astronaut Scholarship Foundation award.

From UCF Today:

Latifah Maasarani always dreamed of being an entrepreneur, but maintained for years she would never go to college. She was so sure that when her older sister graduated from UCF in 2011, she took her graduation cap, put it on and urged her mother to take a photo.

“I told her, ‘Get a picture now because you’re never going to see this,’” Maasarani says. “If you would have told me back then that I’d be here now, getting ready to graduate in May with my bachelor’s degree and applying for a doctoral program, it would have been unfathomable.”

Maasarani is studying photonic science and engineering with the goal of one day starting a biotech company.

The Burnett Honors Scholar has always wanted to make an impact on the world, and while she envisions her future company solving problems in numerous fields, she is particularly interested in learning how she can help astronauts in space through medical diagnostic devices.

“It’s super important for us to know what’s going on inside the astronauts in space because they’re constantly being subjected to radiation and different kinds of harsh environments,” she says. “If we are going to go to Mars or asteroids or other celestial bodies, we need to know how we’re affecting the astronauts, and how we can improve the way we monitor their health.”

A member of the dean’s list and the president of CREOL’s Society of Optics Students, she advocates for women’s growth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She enjoys volunteering her time to talk about optics at science fairs or while visiting elementary schools.

“When I get to do those presentations, the little girls tell me, ‘I like your eyebrows’ or ‘You’re cool,’ and what they really mean is, ‘I see you, and I see what you’re doing,’ and they can see that STEM is an option for them,” she says. “That’s really been the highlight of my time here at UCF.”