By Kel Hahn
If one word could summarize what the Lester Scholarship has given chemical engineering sophomore Ramy Ghanim, that word would be involvement.
“I’m from Lexington,” explains Ramy. “My freshman year I lived off campus, because my parents couldn’t justify helping me pay for housing five miles from where we live. So I would drive to campus, get done with classes and then go home. I tried to get involved with Club Swim, but with practices being so late and having to commute back and forth, it just didn't seem feasible. That was also true for a lot of student organizations.”
Because the Lester Scholarship increases each year a student meets the necessary requirements, Ramy was able to move into University Flats last fall. In his estimation, the move has been revolutionary.
“Now I am completely immersed in the college experience.”
For Ramy, getting involved has taken two primary forms: social justice and undergraduate research. Thanks to a friend in the Center for Community Outreach, Ramy began serving in UK’s Big Blue Pantry. Not long after, he joined SSTOP Hunger: Sustainable Solutions to Overcome Poverty, which focuses on solving hunger and malnutrition.
“In high school I became more aware of social injustices and the cycle of poverty. But I didn’t really have the opportunity to fully invest myself in doing something about it. Being in the Big Blue Pantry and in SSTOP has put me in the forefront of tackling food insecurity, which is a big part of the poverty cycle. Through this, I've been able to apply things I've learned to the real world and benefit people,” says Ramy.
After joining chemical engineering professor Barbara Knutson’s lab last spring, Ramy’s life as a commuting student made it difficult to attend meetings or spend time learning from graduate students. This year has been a different story, and Ramy works in the lab at least 15 hours per week.
“Now I go between classes, and I can stay later at the lab if I'm needed. It makes it way more convenient. Dr. Knutson has even given me my own project.”
Ramy’s experience as an undergraduate researcher has been so formative that he’s abandoned an earlier plan to go to medical school in favor of earning a Ph.D. and committing to a career in research.
“One of my personal goals is to have an impact on people's well-being on a large scale, and research will allow me to apply my education more broadly than I would be working one-on-one with patients in a clinical setting.”