Amani Batarseh ’03

Amani Batarseh ’03 is a Senior Research Scientist Lipidomics and Mass Spectrometry for BCAL Diagnostics.

Why did you choose La Roche?

I was fortunate to receive the Pacem in Terris Institute scholarship for academic excellence offered to students from third-world and war-torn countries. This unique program at La Roche promised me a future and a dream.

I always felt like a citizen of the world beyond the borders on a map. La Roche offered more than a college program centered on coursework. It offered meaningful experiences of living, studying and growing in a rich environment of diverse cultures, languages and worldly views meeting in one location. It was a melting pot. That was priceless. 

Would you recommend La Roche to a prospective student?

I definitely would recommend La Roche to anyone who craves a one-on-one relationship with their colleagues and professors, and a rich educational experience that goes beyond learning lines in a book.

What impact did La Roche have on you as a person?

It’s difficult to answer this question in a few lines. At La Roche I proved to myself that anything was possible — that dreams do come true if you believe in yourself and do your part.

I experienced how everyone has an interesting story if we make the time to listen with our hearts. I learned firsthand why not to judge any book by its cover because we never know what magic the pages hold. Be curious. Be open. Be you. 

What does your job entail?

My job is focused on creating a blood test that would detect breast cancer in women, which would hopefully replace mammograms and be accessible to every woman in the world. For this I used high-end scientific instruments, mainly a Liquid Chromatography coupled Mass Spectrometry workflow to analyze lipids detected in the blood and their ability to differentiate between cancer and control subjects.

How did La Roche prepare you for this position?

The number of inspiring professors I had, namely Dr. Fujito and Dr. Gillardi, changed my outlook when studying a hypothesis. They have always encouraged me to think outside the box.

La Roche believed that helping students from around the world would change the future. I am prepared to follow these values and believe that I can make a difference, and no matter how big or difficult the task, I am committed to help women fight cancer. 

Are you involved in any volunteer service projects?

When I lived in Canada and during the latter part of my Ph.D., I volunteered at the palliative care unit of Montreal General Hospital. I am working on the training needed to do the same in Australia.

I have also received my background clearance and authorization to work with children. I plan to volunteer in schools helping children with challenging backgrounds learn, and to equip them with the skills and discipline needed to receive a college education.

How did participating in activities at La Roche enhance your college experience?

I was part of CHEMSOLVE, a program founded by students in the Chemistry Department focused on hosting and teaching high school students about chemistry and college.

Additionally I was heavily involved in volunteer programs, and I was a resident assistant for a number of years, which played a big role in my assimilation to the American culture and becoming part of the community by giving back. 

Please describe an experience with a faculty or staff member who made a strong, positive impact on you.

Dr. Don Fujito, I am always indebted and thankful for his help. Dr. Fujito had studied at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and I followed in his footsteps by joining the biochemistry program there.

Dr. Fujito taught us skills and ways of thinking, rather than memorizing pages in a book. A big picture kind of guy—an educator that I would always aspire to resemble. 

What was it like to be an international student in Pittsburgh and at La Roche?

La Roche was a welcoming place. I got to experience a spectrum of feelings from people who were excited to have me there and others who were not sure about what they felt, which was beautiful because it was human. Seeing the transformation in apprehensive ones, who later became close friends, was a treat. La Roche gave me a home away from home.