Delving into biological and medical research

“I definitely feel like I’ve really built such a great community here. Besides my lab and my team, I have made so many friends from different classes and different events. I feel like my community is so large here.”

When Adji Diouf ’24 was a junior in high school, she had a conversation that offered her some newfound direction. Diouf, whose mother is a diplomat, had grown up around the world in countries such as Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. At the time of the conversation, Diouf was in São Paolo, Brazil, studying at an international school.

The conversation was with her history teacher’s wife. She had graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1995 as a member of the varsity volleyball team and raved about the College. “She wanted to talk to me about it because I was really active in our women’s empowerment clubs [in school],” Diouf said. “And she knew that Mount Holyoke was definitely a place with women like me.”

Diouf had grown up as an athlete as well, participating in ballet, gymnastics, soccer, basketball and swimming since she was 4 years old. She knew she wanted to continue pursuing sports in college, and she was inspired that her favorite teacher’s wife had done the same. The two of them discussed Mount Holyoke further.

Before she knew it, Diouf found herself at Mount Holyoke. She joined the varsity swimming and diving team and has served as co-captain of the team for the past season. Alongside that, she’s delved into her passions and interests while also settling into her pursuit of a career.

A biological science major on the pre-med track, Diouf is also pursuing a Five College Certificate in Coastal and Marine Science. Working on a research project for the certificate with a fellow Mount Holyoke student has been a pivotal experience for Diouf — partly because it’s been such a challenging experience.

The two students researched temperate corals from the coastal regions of the Eastern United States. In particular, they studied how two different kinds of chemicals — zinc and oxybenzone, which are common ingredients in sunscreens — affected temperate corals. Such a project hadn’t been researched extensively, and with limited funding for the project, the route to success was also difficult. Throughout the semester, long nights were accompanied by hiccups and frustrations in the research.

“I definitely think everyone needs experiences in their life where they have a lot of failure and keep trying to get something to work,” said Diouf. “I think that the experience definitely taught me that it’s still possible to push through and be successful at something even if you failed, three, four, five times. To the point where I thought, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t do this.’”

Despite the odds, Diouf and her colleague pushed through with the project. They became close friends in the process, and Diouf realized how her passion for ocean sciences could also be intertwined with her passion for medicine.

Diouf hadn’t always planned to pursue medicine — that desire initially came from her father — but she had always enjoyed studying biology. Shadowing a doctor during her second year helped solidify her interest in medicine and how being a doctor resonated with her.

Visiting lecturer Justin Baumann has also played a pivotal role in shaping Diouf’s experience at Mount Holyoke and encouraging her capabilities. Her advisor, Rachel Fink, has been immensely supportive as well, helping Diouf to research classes and find opportunities to continue learning and growing. After she graduates, Diouf plans to take a gap year and work at the Howard School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., where she previously interned and was invited to work in a paid position. While researching at the medical school, she’ll be studying for the MCAT.

Now that her time at Mount Holyoke is almost up, she’s reflecting on all that she’s been able to do and accomplish during her time at the College. “I definitely feel like I’ve really built such a great community here,” Diouf said. “Besides my lab and my team, I have made so many friends from different classes and different events. I feel like my community is so large here.”

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The Office of Marketing and Communications spreads the word about Mount Holyoke College’s distinctive strengths and newsworthy accomplishments.

Christian Feuerstein
  • Director of Public Affairs and Media Relations