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UArizona Grad Slam Winner dedicates research to mother

Marwan Abduljawad honors his mother’s battle with cancer
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Posted at 4:39 PM, May 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 01:19:07-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Grad Slam is a competition where University of Arizona graduate students compete to see who can give the best three-minute science presentation with good communication that the general public can understand.

KGUN9 spoke with the winner of this year’s Grad Slam, whose research was inspired by his mother’s cancer.

“As soon as this is my name for the first time, my life I didn't know what to say they said hey, you have the floor, you can say whatever you want,” said Marwan Abduljawad, the 2021 Grad Slam Winner.

Abduljawad is a fourth-year doctoral student in chemical engineering.

“First of all, this competition was like - winning this competition was like a dream to me. The main motivation, it was like, for my mom because I know that this would make them happy. Because she always told me like every time you get a good grade or I get an award she tells me, ‘Marwan, you always makes me happy.’ So this was like the best award I will get,” said Abduljawad.

His research is in developing gold nanoparticles to be used during MRI scans. A contrast agent that can discharge from the body quickly, unlike the agent that is widely used today, which can take months or years to get out of the body.

“In 2017 of the cancer happened with my mom. I knew about the MRI and they use for diagnostic but they didn't know about the contrast agents. But yeah for this specific area of my research my mom was my inspiration and motivation,” said Abduljawad.

Abduljawad’s mother passed away from her cancer two days after he learned he won the Grad Slam competition.

“When I get home at 7pm I still can remember that, like yesterday. My dad called me and he said, ‘You're a strong man, you understand,’ and I knew it. I knew that that is something because I remember when they woke up that day I didn't feel I didn't feel good that day in the morning, I feel like something is off that day. But the cool part now is I feel like everyone is knowing my story and it's knowing that it's for a good reason, and I wanted to help my mom and hopefully that she's proud of me now, she's looking out for me now with when she’s in the heaven,” said Abduljawad.

His passion and clear science communication took him from one round to the other, beating out 76 other students and a grand prize of $3,000.

His goal after graduating this week is to create a company out of the research he’s done for the past several years---keeping his mother at the forefront of his mind and heart.

“I know it’s impossible to fix everything in the world, but we are helping, you know? To make the world a better place for us, for the next generation and for the generation after,” said Abduljawad.