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Ali Asgher

Ali Asgher is a postgraduate science student and advocate for human rights. Born in Saudi Arabia with Indian heritage, he grew up in Sydney’s Western Suburbs. He is a blogger, student, tutor, scientist, advocate and volunteer.

This is his story.

My parents have always been active in advocacy, but I first started in university. There was an Islamophobic attack on campus and I felt nothing was being done, no one was talking about it! I decided to write a two-page spread on the issue in my university's magazine, highlighting the inaction, and interviewed Muslims and non-Muslims, and current and former students of the university. The online version was circulated across campus and it became the most read article for the year.

My biggest success so far was last year, where I was the team captain for my university’s representation to the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition, an international synthetic biology competition held in Boston. Our project was on renewable energy for which we won! We also won the Gold Medal and were awarded for being part of the Inter-Lab study, a collaboration of 100+ teams! The competition was held during the travel ban, so teams from some countries were unable to attend because they were barred from entering the US, despite iGEM’s organisers' efforts. I saw for the first time how global politics impacts on professionals. I also saw researchers come together and cheer for their comrades on the other side of the world who could not make it – it was true human connection!

A second huge milestone for me was when I was accepted in to the Macquarie Undergraduate Research Internship (MURI) Program. The beginning of my online presence can all be traced back to this one experience. After becoming an intern, I was invited to facilitate the program - my very first promotion at a workplace! I am now the Program Research Coordinator, and in my time, I have helped interns from an equity background develop and harness soft skills for any environment, and have seen the product of their research, be it in aboriginal land rights, slave labour, immigration or health care. MURI taught me how to use my voice – with it, I started by blog, twitter, and YouTube channel! 

The most difficult thing in my advocacy work has been finding people to help, and then stick with it.

This is understandable since you need to be passionate about something to do anything about it over the long term. I decided that instead of trying to take on board initiatives, I would help my community on a smaller scale. This was how I got in touch with various youth groups that I previously did not know existed.

After joining networks such as MYAN and connecting with organisations like Multicultural NSW, I hope to be more active in community-based initiatives! In my academic life, I will continue on with my Master’s degree and write my thesis next year. My long-term goal is to one day teach at a university, because I have seen its potential in helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds. While I work towards this, I also want to maintain my YouTube channel and my blog!

My advice to other young people, Start. We all start somewhere. Do not go into something thinking you have to emulate your role model. Take it one step at time. I was looking up at people for all my life and only started doing what I do when I felt ready.

Legends have always taken small steps to climb the mountain – no one ever did it in one leap.


 

You can follow Ali on Twitter: @ali_asgher_ali  Instagram: @sproadicali_ali