Alum Uncovers Gift for Research in Pursuit of Medical Career

Medical school has been in Maira Gaffar’s sights ever since she was 6 years old.

“It was my mother’s dream that I become a physician,” said Gaffar, a first-year student in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University and a recent graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Maira Gaffar works with Dr. Mireille Aleman in the lab. Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) is a private, accredited, Christ-centered college located in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA.
Maira Gaffar works with Dr. Mireille Aleman in the lab.

Gaffar, of West Palm Beach, distinguished herself at PBA by achieving a perfect 4.0 cumulative GPA as both a biology major with a pre-health concentration and a student in the Supper Honors program. One of her professors described her as “conscientious, hard-working, dedicated and extremely intelligent,” adding that “her academic performance is outstanding in every way.”

In December, she was named the Outstanding Graduate of the fall 2012 graduating class of the School of Arts and Sciences.

Her other honors included receiving the Robert and Deborah Jacobson Trust Scholarship for two consecutive years as well as a Bright Futures Academic Award. She was a member of the Pre-Health Club and Journal Club, and she also served as a tutor in science and mathematics.

She also had an opportunity to work on advanced graduate level research while still an undergraduate. She applied for and received a Quality Initiative Grant through the University to work on a research project along with fellow student Chelsea Bugg and Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Mireille Aleman. The project involved studying the effects of cardamom oil on a breast cancer cell line.

Their research required spending long hours in the lab, she said, adding that “it was a great experience.”

She also conducted research in epigenetics through her molecular biology course taught by Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Cynthia Toth, she said.

After medical school, Gaffar hopes to pursue clinical pathology. “I really enjoy working in the lab now,” she said. “I’ll get to work in the lab and also see patients, both of which I enjoy doing.”

In addition to mathematics and science, Gaffar also enjoyed studying English. She was a participant in the PBA Book Club and also was a contributor to the University’s literary magazine, Living Waters Review.

Off campus, she was active in the Southeast Asian Society of West Palm Beach, which offers free clinics and visits to local retirement homes.

Gaffar is a graduate of Seminole Ridge High School in Loxahatchee, where she was active in the mathematics club, science honor society and environmental science classes.

She said that she fell in love with PBA after touring the campus. She said that she appreciated the individualized attention and support she received from faculty.

“They really get to know you,” she said.