Seblini named Outstanding Biology Student, aspires to medical career

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Headshot of Ali Seblini in a black suit with grey plaid tie.

In late April, HFC and the Village Herb Associates of Dearborn presented recent Henry Ford Early College (HFEC) alumnus Ali Seblini with the Outstanding Biology Student Award.

“(HFC biology instructor) Dr. Jolie Stepaniak nominated me. The nomination came as a complete surprise to me. I’m honored and humbled to have received this award. It makes me value my education all the more,” said Seblini, of Dearborn Heights. “I’m grateful for Dr. Stepaniak. She’s a great prof and values education as much as I do. I would like to add that I am very thankful to her for nominating me for this award and sticking up for me. In my experience in her classes, it is clear to me that she values education. I also want to thank the Village Herb Associates for this award. I am grateful, honored, and humbled to receive this title and will do my best to honor it.”

As Outstanding Biology Student, Seblini – who recently graduated from HFEC, earning his associate degree in general science – was awarded $500. He will apply it to his tuition when he transfers to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he will major in biochemistry. He wants to attend medical school.

"Ali is an exceptional student,” said Stepaniak. “He obviously enjoys learning about biology and connecting this material with what he learns in other classes. He is a classroom leader. His enthusiasm brings a positive energy to the class that other students pick up on. He is quick to help his classmates and is kind to everyone."

Maintaining a positive perspective on the value of education and learning

Born in Dearborn, Seblini is the eldest of three. He and his two siblings are first-generation Americans (their parents immigrated from Lebanon). He speaks fluent English and Arabic.

“Since I was young, I’ve always had a general interest in every subject area. I fondly remember telling my parents that I wanted to become a scientist,” recalled Seblini. “But I had a vague understanding of what that was. Then I learned the scientific method, English composition, and mathematics, growing to love all of them.”

He spoke about his decision to attend HFEC.

“HFEC was a good transition from secondary education to college. I really enjoyed my time at HFC and HFEC. Both taught me a lot. This helped me transition to higher education,” explained Seblini.

When he applied to HFEC, Seblini wanted to enter its health program, but ended up being placed in its pre-education program.

“I have no regrets about that,” he said. “Over the five years I’ve spent in this program, I grew to learn the real value of education. It taught me the value of learning. I try to maintain a positive perspective. I encourage my fellow students to never complain about a class and that they should embrace it; they should take what benefits them the most and try to find the positivity.”

A startling realization

Seblini also suffered a crisis of confidence. At one point, he was not sure which career path he wanted to pursue.

“I asked myself, ‘Who is Ali Seblini? Who am I meant to be and what purpose do I have?’” he said. “I looked at the bigger picture, analyzing what was important to me. I then came up with three values that I believed would strengthen my faith: knowledge, family, and serving the world for the greater good. I finally knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to pursue medicine. I acknowledged that I could handle the classes that I needed to take, so I decided that I wanted to push my education to its limits and become a doctor. This will allow me to acknowledge the complexity of creation, knowing that I can one day benefit the world with my knowledge.”

Achieving great success with the Mathematics Club and The Mirror News

During his time at the College, Seblini was involved with the Pre-Health Club, served as treasurer of the Mathematics Club, and served as the news editor of The Mirror News.

Seblini was part of the team that participated in the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges Student Mathematics League, a national competition with many competing two-year colleges from the United States and some from Canada and Mexico. At the end of the 2023-24 academic year, HFC placed first in Michigan, first in the Midwest, and second in the nation (including Canada and Mexico).

“I attribute our success to the professors and students working together as a team,” he said. “The professors dedicated so much time and introduced innovative techniques to tackle difficult problems. The students were loyal to the club and always willing to work hard and study with us.”

Seblini has been involved with HFC’s student-run newspaper, The Mirror News, since 2022. He was part of the newspaper staff that recently won 15 awards at the Michigan Press Association Better Newspaper Conference and 29 awards at the 45th annual Michigan Community College Press Association (MCCPA) annual conference.

“This was my second year attending the MCCPA conference. I wrote around 20 articles for The Mirror News this year,” he said. “It’s a nice feeling. It feels like you’re part of a well-oiled machine. We helped each other out and cheered each other on. Everyone was very friendly and we worked well together.”

The Mirror News faculty advisor Dr. Peter Kim praised Seblini’s efforts.

“Since he started as a freelancer, then staff writer, and now the news editor of The Mirror News, Ali has become one of the most reliable and dedicated writers of the newspaper,” said Kim. “His campus stories demonstrate keen interviewing and storytelling skills, which were recognized two years in a row by the MCCPA. I am elated that he also received the Outstanding Biology Student Award.”

Finding connections between class concepts

In the Winter 2024 semester, Seblini took organic chemistry, microbiology, and calculus II. He managed to see the connections between the three classes, and those connections helped him learn the new material.

“What the three classes had in common was nuclear magnetic resonance in both calculus and microbiology. Another mutual concept was oligosaccharides (carbohydrates with 3-6 units of simple sugars). Dr. Stepaniak asked us what this is. I knew it was mentioned in Dr. Todd Whitaker’s organic chemistry class earlier that morning,” explained Seblini. “There is overlap between organic chemistry and microbiology. Dr. Stepaniak appreciated that I knew this. This reinforced my method of learning. It’s important to make connections. I find it rewarding to study all these subjects and find a way to bridge the gaps between them. All of this will be helpful for me when I attend med school.”

Seblini shared his wisdom and advice for people studying science at HFC, especially those who are on the fence: Enjoy what you study.

“The world needs people to study it and understand it,” he said. “That’s what biology and the sciences are for. It is the very essence of science to understand the systems and functions of the universe – to consistently ask ourselves questions, make connections, and draw conclusions. To any student considering studying science at HFC, keep in mind that it will not be an easy journey. Do not let that discourage you. The fact that it is a complex topic should motivate you to pursue it even more. The rewarding feeling of understanding a new process of the world is a feeling that cannot be beaten. Ground and discipline yourself. Do not forget the value of your education and do not distract yourself from it. Persevere, organize yourself, and find a method of learning that suits you. All students are different learners.”

“Learning is universal, and it should be appreciated universally”

In order to do what you love, you need to love what you do, Seblini said.

“If I were studying engineering, I would still love what I do and learn. Learning is universal, and it should be appreciated universally. Even if you’re learning a small fact, appreciate that. If you are ever curious about something in class or have a quick question that is off-topic from what you’re learning, look it up. Ask someone about it,” he said. “Making connections between subjects is one of my favorite things.”

Seblini continued: “This is one of the best kinds of motivation and one that never fades. You can never learn everything, which is exactly why a learner can be forever motivated to learn. If I’m doing well in all my classes, why shouldn’t I push myself as far as I can go? I don’t want to stop learning at a point where I know I could have gone further and regret it later. I want to benefit my community to the best of my ability, and if I don’t take advantage of that opportunity, I’ll be letting them down and I’ll be letting myself down as well because I got complacent.”

His career goal is to become an anesthesiologist.

“I want to use my skills to fill positions people don’t want. It's hard to become a doctor. Many people won't pursue it because it’s difficult, which Is why I want to do it. The motivation for me is I don’t want to waste my abilities. I want to see how far I can go. I want to push myself and just try to keep improving myself and benefit my community. Being an MD will only maximize my abilities to help my community,” he explained.

Whitaker, who recently retired, enjoyed having Seblini in his class.

“Students like Ali Seblini give me renewed hope for the future. We need to see more young people capable of using new information toward responsible decision-making that will benefit society,” said Whitaker. “Ali has that in spades with a passion toward learning and a strong commitment to being a good person. What a parting gift it was to have him in my final semester teaching full-time at HFC!”

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