Featured Students

INDS students are all over the place. As difficult as it is for us to feature just a few of them, they are making a difference on the campus and around the world. Be sure to check out our Featured Alumni as well.

Asif Majid - UMBC Class of 2013 Valedictorian

INDS is proud to announce that Asif Majid is UMBC's Class of 2013 Valedictorian! He is the first INDS student to be named valedictorian of a graduating class! We hope you join us in celebrating his awesome achievement! A UMBC profile is available at http://www.umbc.edu/classof2013/.

Here is what the selection committee presented to Dr. Hrabowski:

Asif Majid is a wonderful example of UMBC’s commitment to “produce socially engaged citizens who graduate with the commitment and experience to serve responsibly in their communities, state, and nation.”

An interdisciplinary studies major in Global Peace Building and Conflict Management, Asif’s ongoing inquiry into the nature of human conflict and his search for creative solutions have been a consistent driving force for him both in and out of the classroom. His search to understand and make a difference led him to such diverse experiences as: leading an international summer peace camp for Arab, American and Israeli teenagers in Maine, teaching history and script-writing to middle school students in Minneapolis, leading UMBC students on a an Alternative Spring Break trip focused on homelessness services in Baltimore City, participating in the Model UN Conference at Johns Hopkins, and a year-long study abroad in Morocco.

A gifted scholar, member of the Honor’s College and a Sondheim Scholar, Asif is described by INDS faculty as the “ideal interdisciplinary student.” His studies encompass a vast array of disciplines including  Arabic, Anthropology, Modern Languages and Linguistics, Political Science, Geography and Environmental Systems, History, Sociology, and Music.  He speaks Arabic and French and has knowledge of Gujarati, Urdu and Spanish. According to Dr. Michael Richards, Professor and Chair of the Department of Music, Asif is also a talented percussionist, whose ability to synthesize diverse information from a variety of disciplines, enables him to think about music on a deep level and develop carefully thought out musical interpretations and technical decisions. Asif’s independent research, which has resulted in two Undergraduate Research Awards and a Boren National Security Scholarship, investigates how the performing arts can be used to facilitate empathy and transform conflict.  His capstone projects focuses on transgenerational migration and identity in North Africa and will yield a scholarly paper as well as a Brechtian play confronting the social justice implications of issues related to migration, transnational identity, human rights, sexual harassment, and the Arab Spring, which will be performed at UMBC at URCAD and on May 12th.


Asif is an enthusiastic champion of UMBC and an active contributor to the UMBC community. He has been a tour guide since 2010, a member of the INDS council of majors, a student representative to the Patapsco Hall Addition design team, a member of the UMBC orchestra and leader of the percussion section, and an active volunteer in the INDS Department (for which he will receive this year’s Mary Jo Kleiner Award for Outstanding Service to Interdisciplinary Studies). As Dr. Brigid Starkey from Political Science stated in her letter of support, Asif “has loved his time at UMBC and will be an international ambassador for this campus for the rest of his life.” Asif will pursue a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution at Georgetown University in the fall.

In a recent interview, Asif commented, 

"Though UMBC has afforded me many opportunities and given me support to be successful in many arenas, I would say that I am most humbled and honored to have achieved excellence within the Interdisciplinary Studies Department (INDS).  Designing my own major, conducting independent research through my capstone and social justice theatre project, integrating a study abroad experience into my undergraduate career, and making history as the first valedictorian from INDS are simply my way of saying thank you to the exceptional department that has been my home for the past four years."

For more information please visit http://umbcgiving.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/30-days30-scholarships-qa-with-2013-valedictorian-asif-majid/


Josh Massey and Andres Camacho

Interdisciplinary Studies Concentrations: Leadership Development & Social Entrepreneurship (Josh); Entrepreneurship and Digital Communication (Andres)

Josh and Andres work for Cleats for Bare Feet (C4BF), a social project by a local green energy company, greeNEWit. C4BF collects used soccer equipment to send all over the world. One of their goals is to re-define the word “donation” by leveraging the power of the internet to make charitable giving a more interactive and social experience. Please visit their media announcement at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/let-s-build-a-social-giving-revolution-together.


Kathleen Heasley

Interdisciplinary Studies Concentration: Biophysics

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects at least 170 million people worldwide, about 3.2 million of those cases residing in the U.S.  There is not vaccine available, and the standard therapy is only effective for specific viral genotypes. Understanding how this virus functions requires the knowledge of several disciplines being integrated together; specifically the viewpoints of biology, chemistry, and physics.  Using the interdisciplinary research process, these perspectives can be integrated together to form a new understanding of HCV. From biology, we learn about the virus structure and how it takes advantage of a cell for replication. From chemistry, the properties and interactions of the viral molecule can be studied. Using the techniques and foundational knowledge from physics, these molecules can be studied using computer models. Initial symptoms may include: fatigue, muscle aches, jaundice, fever, and loss of appetite; most people do not exhibit ANY symptoms until long term damage (cirrhosis, liver cancer) has been done.

One of the methods used to study the molecules necessary for viral replication is temperature-accelerated molecular dynamics (TAMD), which uses and elevated simulation temperature to explore changes in protein shape (conformation).  TAMD was used in this to study NS5B, the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase vital for HCV replication. A new understanding of conformational chances important for the function of the enzyme may lead to new possibilities for inhibiting the protein and finding new avenues of treatment.


Alyson Becker

Interdisciplinary Studies Concentration: Intercultural Communication and East Asian Studies

Alyson traveled to Japan two weeks after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in the north.  She will be studying coverage of the disaster in both American and Japanese media and the resulting reactions among the public of both countries.  The personal experiences she had in both countries will fuel her study.