Learning to Spread the Love of Science through Normandale

By Steven Geller - Director of Media and Public Relations

Dr. Mohamed Yakub came to Normandale Community College as a first-generation student in 2001 unsure about how to navigate the college experience. Normandale helped Yakub get started on his career path, and now he wants to do the same for other high school and community college students.

When he started college, Yakub was planning on pursuing a career as a doctor due to family expectations even though he did not enjoy his biology classes in high school. His experiences with biology classes changed in a positive way at Normandale.

"My second year at Normandale I took a human biology class to meet my requirements," said Yakub. "Dr. Wayne Becker was my instructor, and he taught the class with such passion. I credit my love of biology to Dr. Becker, he was amazing. Immediately after that I signed up for more biology classes. I took microbiology with Dr. Hendrickson. She was strict, but I learned so much from her. I credit Dr. Becker, Dr. Hendrickson and my chemistry instructor Dr. Reznicek for my passion of the sciences."

After graduating from Normandale in 2004, Yakub went on to get his bachelor's degree in Microbiology and his master's degree in Molecular Biology at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. During that time, Yakub learned he preferred research to the medical field, and he went on to get his Ph.D in Plant Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota.

While he was pursuing his Ph.D., Yakub had the chance to teach and realized it was something he really enjoyed. After receiving his Ph.D., he was named the Outreach and Education Coordinator of the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota.

In the position, Yakub oversees a high school program that is focused on challenging students to research solutions to local and global hunger issues. The program serves as a gateway to the World Food Prize Symposium and global travel, paid internships for high school students, and a scholarship to the University of Minnesota.

He is also helping to create a new outreach center focused on plant and pollinator health, where he supports plant-based research. Yakub is in the process of determining how to engage research for student education and community education. One of Yakub's goals is to expand research opportunities to community college students interested in STEM fields.

"As I have worked in this position, I realized this was my childhood and community college voice," said Yakub. "This is why I am trying to figure out ways that Normandale and other community college students can get more experiences doing hands-on research."

Yakub recently accepted a position at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. In that position, he will work in science communication and outreach at a broader level.

"I was proud to get my Ph.D., but I tell people I would not be here if I had not started at Normandale," said Yakub. "I did not realize how important it was for me until about two or three years ago. Normandale provided the foundation for my academic success. I am thankful for the education I received at Normandale, and how accessible it was to me. I am also very appreciative of the many people who helped me get here, and I want to pay it forward by helping others get involved in science research and careers."