President Obama gives Engineering Science student a surprise mention

Maryam Ahmed, a DPhil student at the Department of Engineering Science studying at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering Centre for Doctoral Training in Healthcare Innovation, had a surprise mention by President Obama this weekend.

US President, Barack Obama told 500 young people at a town hall meeting in London to ‘reject pessimism, cynicism and know that progress is possible’. In the question and answer session were A-level students and people selected for a US Ambassador's young leaders project in the UK - some of whom got a special mention from the President. Maryam Ahmed was one of those who was surprised to hear her name.

The President said of her: ‘[Leadership] is the impulse to say, I may have grown up one of eight in a small west London house, but I'm going to use the education I got at Oxford to help any child have the same opportunities that I have’.

Maryam AhmedMaryam Ahmed said: ‘Obama name checking me in a speech not something that I ever imagined would ever happen in my wildest dream. It was fantastic. You just cannot believe the most powerful man in the world is standing a few feet in front of you.

‘He talked about what I've done to try to improve access to education, which is a subject very close to my heart. My parents are both from Pakistan, and I was really lucky to have family that valued education above everything else.

‘At my comprehensive school, it wasn't really pushed for people to apply for the best possible university, and I think there's a big stigma about Oxford and Cambridge that it's elitist. I've participated in a lot outreach programmes which encourage more people to apply to Oxford.

‘Education is the big social leveller. I want everyone to have the same opportunities to access to the best possible education, and at the moment, that's not the case.

‘After Obama's speech, I was walking around in a daze. I just thought I need something to eat, so I went and bought a potato salad and sat on the train home eating it and crying happy tears’.