Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Dedicated and Tenacious: Student Charts New Territory in Her Passion to Explore Physics

Qurat-ul-Ann “Anna” Mirza | Undergraduate, Physics & Mathematics

The first thing that one might notice about Qurat-ul-Ann “Anna” Mirza is her hijab—it’s usually brightly colored. The thing that makes her stand out though is her passion for physics and her dogged determination to understand concepts that are at first daunting.

Anna isn’t afraid to chart new territory. As an undergraduate student majoring in both physics and mathematics in the School of Science at IUPUI, she believes that the most important thing in life is education. Coming from a background where not many women pursue higher education, she aspires to become the first female in her family to earn a Ph.D. and would like to become a research scientist searching for dark matter, investigating the high-energy end of the spectrum and studying quantum information.

Qurat-ul-Ann “Anna” Mirza
Anna with other students in the IUPUI Pakistani Student Association

While attending Speedway High School in Indianapolis, Anna became fascinated with gravitational force, the motion of our universe, the bending of light, and sound waves.  

The summer before her freshman year, Anna began doing research with the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program. She’s been doing research ever since, much of which has been supported by the IUPUI Center for Research and Learning.  She also has served as a research assistant in a position funded by the Institute of Mathematical Modeling and Computational Science in the School of Science.

“Anna's research has elucidated the similarities and differences between semiconductor thin-film memristors and ion channels in biological membranes,” observed Yogesh N. Joglekar, Ph.D., associate professor of physics and Anna’s mentor. “Her continuous dedication and tenacity in the face of challenging research questions and her overarching desire to put her results in broader context show that she has internalized the essence of life in research.”

Like most people who delve deeply into an area of study, Anna has experienced the frustration and failed attempts at problem-solving that frequently are on the path to true insight and understanding.

“The students and faculty at IUPUI have provided me with a great amount of support and encouragement,” said Anna.

It would be understandable for a woman in physics and math, both male-dominated fields, to hide her weaknesses. Instead, Anna has leveraged her experiences—both the struggles and successes—to ease the road for other students by helping to organize test-prep sessions and serving as vice-president of the Physics Club.

As a member of the Science Ambassador Leadership Team (SALT), she also readily shares her stories with prospective and current students, encouraging them to pursue subjects of interest and explaining how science and math are all about discovery, which wouldn’t be possible if people gave up at the first sign of hardship.

“I believe that my involvement in various activities has made me a better student and person,” said Anna. “Conducting research has improved my understanding of physics. Through my involvement in SALT, the School of Science Diversity Council and student organizations, I am able to contribute to the diversity, academic excellence and community service for which IUPUI is known.”

Mirza has given numerous presentations on her research, and her Minimal Hodgkin-Huxley Model: DC Stimulus was published in February on the Wolfram Demonstration Project website. This past spring she received honorable mention for Posters on the Hill from the U.S. Capitol by the Council on Undergraduate Research and was awarded the prestigious Bowling-Jones-Russo Memorial Undergraduate Research Award by IUPUI, which is presented annually to a continuing IUPUI student who has demonstrated outstanding research in any discipline.

Mirza is also president of the IUPUI Pakistani Student Association.

In her spare time, Anna enjoys hanging out with her large extended family, watching cricket, football and tennis, and gardening.