Science to the Rescue

Hayat Rasul '19

Hayat Rasul ’19

As a kid, Hayat Rasul ’19 wanted to be a mermaid. Now, this Posse Foundation scholar's plans are much more practical, but she still has a chance to see Dickinson’s famed mermaid on campus every day. Hayat discusses why she chose to major in earth sciences and mathematics and explains her research in Canada and Japan. She also recalls her work in Pennsylvania’s Mt. Holly Springs, where she used geophysical techniques to help relocate the lost tombs of African American Civil War soldiers.


Granada Hills, Calif.


Earth sciences and mathematics.

Clubs and organizations:  

eXiled Poetry Society, the Feminist Collective and the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM).


Posse Foundation Scholarship, Wheel and Chain Honorary Society and Queer Caps.

On choosing Dickinson:   

Dickinson was recommended to me by my college counselor in high school. I applied to 14 schools and ultimately chose Dickinson because of the environmental sciences program and small class sizes.

On choosing a major:  

I initially wanted to study environmental science and Spanish, but when I took an earth sciences class with [Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences] Jorden Hayes, I immediately realized how interdisciplinary the field was. I was able to incorporate all of my interests and learn new things. It was the quickest decision I made, considering I am a Libra.

Favorite book:

After Dark by Haruki Murakami.

Favorite movie:

Party Monster.

Favorite place on campus:

The lawn between Dana Hall and The Clarke Forum.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Lentil soup.

Favorite class/learning experience:  

A class I took this past semester, Environmental Geophysics with Dr. Jorden Hayes. One of the projects we worked on was to relocate lost tombs of African American Civil War soldiers in Mt. Holly Springs. We were able to use geophysical techniques to provide the community with the tools to reclaim the lost tombs. It was so amazing to use science as a social justice tool. It was exactly the experience I was yearning for as I entered college—science to uplift communities in need.

Favorite professor:  

Dr. Hayes. She truly has shown me what it means to teach and to learn. I have never felt more comfortable in a learning environment. She genuinely cares for and nurtures her students’ success, and she loves geophysics puns and memes, which makes class all the more fun.

As I kid, I wanted to be …

… a mermaid.

About my research:

I have done research in Japan and Canada. In Japan, I studied how the 3/11 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami affected the island. The nuclear meltdown that occurred from tsunami destruction impacted families, specifically mothers and children, and we conducted interviews to learn about their experiences firsthand.

In Canada, I conducted fieldwork with [Professor of Earth Sciences] Ben Edwards to examine how climate change is impacting alpine environments, specifically in northern British Columbia. We traveled to the backcountry of the coastal mountains and set up camp between two volcanoes (north and south) and two glaciers (east and west). We ultimately tracked the movement of the glaciers, conducted water-quality tests and collected samples across the region.

My little-known hobby/talent:

I can play two flutes simultaneously with my nostrils. I can also pick things up with my toes.

If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …   

Devonté Hynes.

Biggest influence:

As cheesy as it is, my mama is my biggest influence. She crossed an ocean and started an entirely new life in the U.S. From her, I learned to leap forward, fall sometimes, love hard, be resilient and pave my own path to live the most authentic life for me. Thank you, Mama, for everything, always.

Describe Dickinson in one sentence:

Dickinson is a place of self-discovery, challenge and growth.

Proudest accomplishment: 

Shaving my head (I decided to do it after years of contemplation and many hair-dying experiences).

In a perfect world … 

… I would sip my lavender tea whilst living in a cabin in the Sierra Nevadas with a singular Holland lop bunny.

Personal philosophy/advice:

If you ever need some good old self-reflection prompts, do your birth chart.

Post-Dickinson plans:

Beyond the limestone, I plan to live with folks on the East Coast and eventually return to my home of Los Angeles, California. I hope to continue studying storm water, hydrogeological systems and water quality through either a graduate program or by working for a water-quality organization in urban areas. I have always loved water, perhaps because I am from a place with virtually none left. If that doesn't work out for me, I plan to backpack the Pacific Coast Trail, and hopefully the ideas will come to me.

Most important thing I’ve learned so far:  

It is extremely important to be patient with yourself in college. Changing your mind is OK. You have to do what you have to do for yourself and no one else. And remember to laugh your brains out.

Read more Student Snapshots.


Published July 16, 2018