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Success Through Service

Here’s a brain teaser for all of the armchair physicists out there: Is it possible for a solid object to move in two opposite directions at once? Before you say no, we’ll give you a hint: The solid object is a Clarkson undergrad. Still think it’s impossible? Meet Nora Daye, a senior bio-molecular science and biology double major from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who demonstrates a remarkable ability for giving back while moving forward.

“I’ve always been interested in science and helping people,” says Daye. There are a lot of doctors — and two Clarkson alumni — in Daye’s family, and her dream is to become an emergency-medicine physician. As a pre-med student, Daye has seized every opportunity Clarkson offers to deepen her academic experience while never forgetting to step back and ask, “How can I apply what I’ve learned to help somebody else succeed?”

A wonderful example came right after Daye’s freshman year at Clarkson. “One of the nice things about Clarkson is that all of the professors have an open-door policy, even if you’re not enrolled in one of their classes,” says Daye, who browsed the websites of different biology faculty members to find those doing interesting research. After meeting and talking with several professors, she landed a summer internship in a cancer research lab. The 10-week internship was funded through CSTEP (Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program), a national initiative to attract more minority and underrepresented students to math, engineering and the sciences.

While other students with Daye’s talent and drive would have immediately looked for that next stepping stone, Daye considered how her example could inspire the next generation of science-minded girls, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Daye spent part of summer 2010 working as a camp counselor for Horizons, a two-week outreach program for seventh- and eighth-grade girls with a strong aptitude for math and science. She assisted in a CSI lab, helped her girls through bouts of homesickness, and showed what a smart woman in a place such as Clarkson can achieve.

How else does Daye defy convention? After doing very well in one of her first-year biology courses, Daye accepted a position as lab TA for the same course. “Since I had just taken the class, I could really connect with the students and figure out the best way to relate the material to them,” she says. Daye has no intention of becoming a teacher or professor, but she continued as a TA for both junior and senior years, eventually running the lab by herself. She prepared and gave lectures, guided students through experiments, graded, and even held office hours. Why?

“I just really enjoy helping people” is her best explanation. It’s also a Clarkson thing, she says. “I first visited Clarkson as part of Clarkson’s GE Women’s Leadership Program for accepted women,” says Daye. “A Clarkson student hosted me, and she and everyone else were so kind and generous. When I got to campus as a freshman, I immediately wanted to start giving back.”

Daye sees every student club and activity at Clarkson as an opportunity to meet new people, have new experiences, learn something new about herself, and make a small difference in someone else’s life. Daye is the president of Tri-Beta, the national biological honor society, and president of the International Students Organization. More surprisingly, she’s also the community-service chair of the Clarkson chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, despite being neither a student of color nor an engineer. 

“I really believe in diversifying my education and interacting with different kinds of people,” Daye says. Through NSBE, Daye has made some of her closest friends at Clarkson and extended a helping hand to the Potsdam community through food, clothing and blood drives.

And Daye’s not alone. Since 1939, Clarkson has recognized students who embody outstanding leadership and community engagement by inducting them into Phalanx, the university’s highest and most exclusive honors society. In May, 2010 Daye joined the group’s ranks, and she now serves on its executive board.

“Our purpose is to encourage Clarkson students to be active, to go out there and do these things, because it will be recognized and it does mean something,” Daye says.

For Daye, the next step is medical school, and then life as a doctor and a Clarkson alumna. She’s already seen how successful graduates reach back to help students find internships, co-ops and even jobs. We have a feeling she’ll be one of them.

Nora Daye

QUICK FACTS

Favorite class:
Forensics. It was team-based so I made great friends. And I got to carry out the techniques you see on crime shows.

Perfect Friday night at Clarkson:
Taking a walk behind the Clarkson woods to the beaver pond and stargazing there with my friends.

Greatest invention of our time:
YouTube!

Describe yourself in three words:
Passionate, open-minded and innovative