Mahir R.'s Story

“I said to myself, ‘maybe you should drop out.’”

Mahir Rahman’s journey has taken him from sleeping in a shelter with his single mother at 5 years old to enjoying his sophomore year at Yale University. His parents emigrated from Bangladesh to the United States in search of better opportunities, but struggled without much family support in their new country and eventually split up. Mahir and his mother moved between Flushing, Tribeca, and Brooklyn Heights in New York City, relocated briefly to Montreal, and eventually settled in a suburb of Atlantic City where Mahir attended a public high school.

There, he excelled in track and field and passed his advanced courses with ease, but sometimes felt like a social outcast because he did not have the means to participate in costly school parties, events, and weekend activities. His mother kept a strict budget each month to ensure that they had enough for food, clothing, and other necessities. Rather than letting his lower socioeconomic status discourage him, Mahir sought every opportunity to grow and was eventually inspired to study autism by a visit to a local clinic.

When Mahir heard about the QuestBridge National College Match, he started the application the minute it opened online. Several people in Mahir’s school and community told him that he would never get into an Ivy League university because it was just too difficult, but on December 1, 2011, he was accepted into Yale University with a full four-year scholarship.

“Sleep was never a priority,” says Mahir about his freshman year at Yale. Surprised by the rigor of his college courses, he attended tutoring sessions regularly, but still felt like he could not keep up with the other students. “I said to myself, ‘maybe you should drop out,’” he recalls. However, Mahir kept going with the support of his peers in the QuestBridge Scholars Network (QSN) and a sheer will to succeed. 

Today, Mahir is confident in his academics and is preparing a senior research project focused on autism biomarkers and the ethics of fMRI technology in neuroscience. He spent fifteen months in Korea studying gene mutations while learning the Korean language and traveling extensively through Asia – a life-changing experience which helped him to build his own personal values.

Mahir is proud to say, “I go to Yale” and refers to his dream of pursuing graduate studies in neuroscience as “not only just a passion, but a passion that I can actually do.” He knows that the road ahead will hold new challenges, but is excited to explore the ways that neuroscience can impact society.