Shaky start, strong finish

May 26, 2005, vol. 33, no. 3
By John Grant



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It's surprising to hear that Samuel Bakhoum had a relatively shaky start to his academic career at SFU, especially since he is heading to an Ivy League college in September to study for his PhD in hopes of becoming a professor and practicing physician.

Bakhoum came to SFU in 2001 from a United World College in Italy after receiving a personal invitation from SFU's registrar, Ron Heath. Initially eager to study in Canada, Bakhoum found his motivation quickly dissipated as his first semester progressed. He joined the co-op program hoping to apply his skills and knowledge in industry and accepted an eight-month term with a private analytical lab. However, he was unhappy with his job and withdrew early.

A bit disillusioned, Bakhoum was unsure what career path he was going to pursue, but acknowledged that “you don't lose anything with co-op. It first made me alert as to what I wouldn't be happy with down the road.” He took a risk and applied for another co-op job - this time for a position in one of the chemistry labs on campus. He began working for George Agnes, a man he says was a great inspiration and mentor. Three co-op terms later, Bakhoum is an integral member of Agnes' team. He has numerous publications and his name on a patent as a result of the team's studies on crystallization. The implications of their work could potentially make a significant contribution toward developing new pharmaceuticals targeting proteins involved in debilitating diseases such as cancer.

When reflecting upon his undergraduate experience, Bakhoum says he realized that, “once you start finding something you'd like to do, keep pursuing it and don't let go. Focus in your life is very important and for me, the co-op program helped me to find that focus.”

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