For a trio of PhD students at UC Irvine, work, pharmacology, and research run in families

Siblings who work, study and live together are siblings who stay together – at least for the three youngest of eight children in the Alhassen family.

In the vicinity of UC Irvine, Lamees (26), Wedad (25) and Sammy Alhassen (23) are known as “three siblings”. Not only do they share an apartment on campus, but they are also interested in pharmacology, the subject of each student’s doctorate.

“We come from a really big family. There are eight of us in total, and for my father, education was always very, very important to him, and that’s why we decided to do a doctorate, ”said Lamees. “We’re all about a year apart. That’s why we all went to the same high school, middle school, and college.”

Her five older siblings have careers in engineering – environment, construction, construction, and aerospace – and architecture.

Lamees, Wedad, and Sammy were taking general education classes in parallel with their high school classes prior to their bachelor’s degrees, and Wedad said the three would have worked together until Lamees graduated.

“For us it became almost like we had our own study partners,” said Wedad.

Wedad Alhassen (left) and her sister Lamees are working on a solution for injection in a laboratory at UC Irvine, where they are PhD students with brother Sammy at the new School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

(Raul Roa / employee photographer)

All three siblings got their bachelor’s degrees early from UC Riverside but completed their masters degrees from UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and UC Berkeley. Lamees, the eldest of the three siblings, said she first entered biomedical engineering because she wanted to attend medical school.

But she decided to take a year off after completing her bachelor’s thesis to do research, which she now believed to be her real passion. She met Amal Alachkar, an Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Olivier Civelli, the Department of Neuropharmacology of Eric L. and Lila D. Nelson at UC Irvine.

The trio now works together in the laboratory, but pursues different research topics as doctoral projects.

Wedad said she originally wanted to do architecture because of her father, Tarif Alhassen, but changed her mind in high school. She said she always wanted to do something in science and help others and went into biomedical engineering because she was interested in the courses Lamees was taking. The two are 11 months apart.

Wedad said she saw her teaching and researching but didn’t want to interact with patients.

Wedad Alhassen, 25, prepares test samples in a laboratory at UCI where she and her two siblings are PhD students.

Wedad Alhassen prepares test samples in a UC Irvine laboratory.

(Raul Roa / employee photographer)

She and Sammy eventually helped Lamees and other researchers.

“For me, I’d always focused on bioengineering, but after I worked in this lab and started working on other projects,” Wedad said. “You can bridge the gap between bioengineering and pharmacology, and for me it was more like, ‘I want to do both at the same time with my research.'”

Sammy said all three had the same start, but that he had argued between construction and engineering. He knew he wanted to do math and was good at it, but he was also interested in biology and science. He followed his sisters’ path because he believed that his two interests came together in biomedical engineering.

“When we get home, we usually don’t [talk about research]but sometimes I’ll say, “Lamees, can we talk about this and that?” and she’s like ‘Wedad. I’m home. Let’s relax Let’s not bring the research home. ‘”

Wedad Alhassen

Lamees said she was researching the extract of a plant called Corydalis yanhusuo, which could be used in conjunction with pain relievers such as opioids to reduce the chances of becoming addicted.

Wedad said she is mapping brain circuits to see how they are related to schizophrenia in hopes that new therapeutics could be developed for the treatment.

Siblings Sammy Alhassen (23) and Wedad Alhassen (25) prepare test samples in a laboratory.

Sammy Alhassen (left) and his sister Wedad prepare test samples in a laboratory at UC Irvine.

(Raul Roa / employee photographer)

Sammy said he is working on mental and movement disorder projects that may provide a new understanding of certain chemicals in the human body. His main focus is on treatments and a possible cure for Parkinson’s disease.

The three of them live together and try to avoid discussing their research at home. That is not always successful.

Lamees said that while all three projects are different, they use similar techniques. She tries to emphasize that they keep work and home separate, but that has become more difficult with the pandemic that closed her lab for a month in March.

“When we’re in the lab, we feel like we talk a lot about research and say, ‘Hey, this is what I’m doing. These are the problems that I have. What do you think? Asked Wedad.

“When we get home, we usually don’t [talk about research]but sometimes I’ll say, ‘Lamees, can we talk about this, this, and that? ‘”Said Wedad, laughing,” and she said,’ Wedad. I’m home. Let’s relax Let’s not bring the research home. ‘”

“Laboratory work is talked about at home, which I don’t mind, but for the most part we like to keep it where we come home, can undress, relax and not have to worry about problems we run into research”, said Lamees, “but then again we signed up for a PhD program and we’re basically married [to] That’s all we think about all the time. “

The trio describes the Alhassen family as closely related. Lamees and Wedad remember a large, shared backyard between their family and neighboring aunts and uncles in West Covina. Sammy said the family moved at a young age, but he remembers doing homework and workbooks with his father. Tarif Alhassen still lives in West Covina.

26-year-old Lamees Alhassen is preparing a sample in a UCI laboratory where she and her two siblings are PhD students.

Lamees Alhassen prepares a sample in a laboratory at UC Irvine.

(Raul Roa / employee photographer)

Wedad said she remembered the workbooks that would come in the summer. They would have to finish their activities for the day before they could go to play.

“There has always been a balance between ‘Your education is very important, nobody can take it away from you, so focus on it’ and then you can have fun whenever you want,” Wedad said. “I think that’s one thing that we have always been instilled. It’s all fun, but education is very, very important. “

“‘You have to establish yourself’ because the only thing our father wants to leave us is not a pile of money, not a pile of whatever,” Wedad said. “He wants to go with education and be able to be independent, find our job, earn our own money and be able to live off of it. He never wanted to give us anything. “

Lamees said she felt that her older siblings had followed in the footsteps of their father, an architect, while she, Wedad, and Sammy turned more to biology.

“It was always the young three who always wanted to stick together and work together and build something out of nothing,” said Wedad. “To the [our family]I think they are rather proud [of us]. I don’t think they think about it. We’re all very, very close. In the end, I think they love us to be together. You don’t have to worry because we can take care of each other. “

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