Sanaa Ahmed

How I got into science

At a very young age, I always found myself constantly asking questions. I may not have realized my curiosity came naturally to me until those closest to me began to label me “Ms. Curious”. By the time I reached fifth grade, I was bestowed with the award for being the “Most Inquisitive” in my grade. To be fair, I wasn’t even positive about what that meant but once I discovered its meaning, it all fell into place. As for my passions, they are as diverse as they are profound. In the second grade when I lived in Johannesburg, I wanted to be a pediatrician during the week, a professor at night, and a ballet teacher on the weekends. Though I may not have fully comprehended the feasibility of juggling all three professions, my passion and determination have not waivered since then.

I grew up in 4 different countries and spent the majority of my defining years in disadvantaged, underdeveloped countries. I was a witness to plenty of illnesses that left a numerous amount of underprivileged people deprived of ailment. Living in Africa for 10 years forced the harsh realities of the healthcare system to reveal themselves to me. Despite being a young girl, I was aware of the deteriorating health of the citizens and I knew I could not conform to nor accept a world of inadequate healthcare assistance. Growing up, I did not have a direct role model to look up to in the medical field. None of my family members or close people in my life were doctors, however, clinics and hospitals were not foreign to me. My professional goals in medicine were heightened upon perceiving the medical care in the developed world compared to West Africa’s, and from then on, I knew my purpose in life was to help. Having seen firsthand the impact of a world with declining healthcare and on the other end, having experienced enriching treatment, I want to pursue a career path with the goal of closing the gap of what healthcare should resemble. After I attain my MD, I dream of working with the organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to provide care where demands are needed most.

When I was a rising junior in high school, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into Boston University’s Summer Challenge program, where I further developed my interest in medicine and more specifically, the field of neuroscience. I immersed myself in the “college experience” by taking an abnormal psychology and infectious diseases course and gained a newfound appreciation for the brain. In high school, I volunteered in a retirement home and medical center, helping the elderly with everyday tasks and even planning games and outings. It has always felt rewarding to help others in any way I can and be able to interact with them on a personal level. I am an extroverted person and I have always dreamed of using my knowledge and skills to make a positive impact on people's lives and truly make a difference. Moreover, I grew up in an environment where neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and its effects, were prominent. Witnessing such a degenerative disease encouraged me to learn more about it. I eventually became so fascinated with the complexity of the brain that I chose to pursue neuroscience in college. The more I learn about the brain, the more captivated I am by its capabilities. The intricacies and nuances of the brain and the way in which it influences our behavior, thoughts, and emotions never cease to amaze me. As someone who has always been drawn to science and the inner workings of the human body, pursuing neuroscience was a natural choice for me. Studying neuroscience offers me the opportunity to delve deeper into the mysteries of the brain and what’s more exciting than the unknown?

Non-science biography:

As someone who has grown up in multiple countries with very different lifestyles and cultures, I have always had a love for traveling and experiencing new foods and places. I love kayaking, hiking, and pretty much any activity in the water. By the same token, I have been exposed to various cuisines and love to cook and bake (when I have the time!) Additionally, I have danced for the majority of my life and will always have a passion for it, despite not being able to consistently practice. I have also always loved expressing myself through fashion and experimenting with new styles and trends.

Research Interests

Currently, I am working in the Ramirez and Scott labs to gain insight into the mechanisms underlying decision-making deficits in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder and identify the ways in which psychedelics can be administered to alleviate impairments. The current research I am doing with my postdoctoral fellow Cristina is directed toward comprehending neural underworkings of psychedelics like ketamine and psilocybin in mouse models of neuropsychiatric diseases and establishing a framework for mapping and stimulating the effects of psychedelic drugs.



The Divergent Series or Verity by Colleen Hoover


I love thriller and horror movies... couldn’t just pick one


Gilmore Girls and 2 Broke Girls


R&B, Afrobeats, rap and Indie


Thai, breakfast foods, and chocolate


Coffee and mango smoothies


Cooking, dancing, and exploring new places with friends

Coffee, friend or foe:


One thing I’m sorry I’m not sorry about

Reality TV shows... I am not apologetic for my love for Love Island, Survivor, and literally, any Food Network show.

What I look for in a scientist

I look for curiosity, creativity, and collaboration in a scientist. Curiosity drives scientific inquiry while collaboration fosters innovation. Being creative enables scientists to generate novel ideas and approach problems with unique perspectives!