A photo of a Bangladeshi girl smiling and holding a paper-made crest has been being shared a hundred times on social media over the past few days. Her name is Mahjabin Haque.
She has been lauded on the social media by hundreds of Bangladeshi users for joining the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US as a software engineer.
Mahjabin talked to Prothom Alo recently about how she made her way from the Sylhet Khajanchibari International School and College to NASA.
Having worked as an intern in NASA during her studies at Wayne State University, Michigan, Mahjabin will be joining as a fulltime space system software engineer in the research organisation from 7 October.
Mahjabin was brought up in Kazitula of Sylhet. Her father Syed Enamul Haque is the senior principal officer of Pubali Bank. Mahjabin lives in Michigan with her mother Ferdousi Chowdhury and her brother Syed Samiul Haque who served in the US army.
“I was a Class III student when I watched a programme on TV. That programme inspired me to work at NASA someday,” Mahjabin said.
She left Bangladesh for the US on a Diversity Visa (DV) in 2009. She got admission in William Cullen Bryant High School but soon went to Michigan and was admitted into Hamtramck High School in 2011.
Her father wanted her to be a physician and so she initally attended a few pre-medical classes.
But her childhood dream was to be an engineer and she quitted medical studies to join the Computer Science Department at Michigan Wayne State University in 2014.
She worked as in intern at several organisations including at NASA twice. She had been an intern data analyst from January to May in 2018 and an intern software engineer in the Mission Control Centre of NASA from January to May this year.
She was the only Bangladeshi intern in that group. Mahjabin took to the stage at Rocket Park in NASA and sang Bangla songs and danced for the audience several times.
Mahjabin gives the credit for her success to none but her mother. Many of her relatives did not find it wise to study engineering instead of medicine and criticised her decision. But her mother was a staunch supporter by her side.
“I wanted my daughter to reach the sky. I am proud of her,” Ferdousi Chowdhury told Prothom Alo.
Mahjabin said her mother always asked her to work hard and not to lose heart for anything.
“It’s my mother who made me achieve this,” she added.
Mahjabin said, besides good results one needs to take part in various extracurricular activities to work in NASA.
“NASA prefers all-rounders. Good results are not the only requirement. Sometimes it does not require excellent academic results. One has to participate in various social activities and has to have excellent leadership qualities,” Mahjabin explained.
Referring to various difficulties that Bangladeshi women face studying subjects of their choice, Mahjabin said, “I know how it feels. I went through many difficulties to continue my studies in engineering. All I want to say is, stick to your choice and study what you want. You will certainly be successful.”
*This piece originally appearing in Prothom Alo print edition has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat