Ali Almail
Medical School Student, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Ali Almail

Reflecting the Creator

Ali graduated from Northwestern with both an art major and a major in genetics, molecular biology and cellular biology. He’s now studying medicine at the University of Toronto and conducting research at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. In his spare time, he serves as a section editor for the University of Toronto Medical Journal and as a layout editor for the magazine Palette, which focuses on the intersection of art and medicine.

Why did you major in genetics, molecular biology and cellular biology?

I’ve always been fascinated by intricacies in art and architecture, so when I fell in love with biology in high school, genetics was a natural focus for my interests. It brings me great satisfaction when I can know the genetic mechanism, molecular pathophysiology, and subsequent macro/body scale representation of a specific condition. And since the fields of genetics, molecular biology and cellular biology are continually growing, I love that there are unanswered questions, because they lead to further exploration and learning.

What kind of research experience did you get at Northwestern?

Northwestern gave me the privilege of being involved in many research experiences. I annotated phages through the SEA-PHAGES program and uncovered the functions of phage genes through the SEA-GENES program. A collaboration between SEA-PHAGES and Northwestern’s Honors and Junior Scholars programs gave me the opportunity to understand phage transcriptional regulation in the phage JacoRen57. I also gained insight into the confirmations of nitric oxide synthase by using single-molecular fluorescence microscopy and biophysical principles.

How has your Northwestern education stacked up against that of your fellow grad students?

Northwestern did a great job in giving me a solid scientific foundation on which to build my medical knowledge at the University of Toronto. My professors taught me how to think critically about what I am learning. It’s an immensely useful skill that I apply every day.

What impact did Northwestern have on your faith?

The biggest impact was in the way Northwestern integrated faith with science and art. I learned that studying science and conducting scientific experiments can be a way to glorify God and draw closer to our Creator. Being an art major also helped me draw closer to God through creative experimentation. That process of creating—whether in an art studio or science lab—gives me a glimpse of God’s creative abilities.

What does the future hold for you?

I’m not sure what medical specialty I want to go into as there are so many out there that interest me. I’m considering doing something that overlaps surgery and pediatrics, because I enjoy caring for the pediatric population and I love the tactility of surgery. I can also see myself pursuing scientific research and being involved in art wherever I find myself.