Outstanding Seniors in the College of Science: Kiah Sleiman

May 3, 2022

This spring, each department in the University of Arizona's College of Science nominated an outstanding senior who went above and beyond during their time as a Wildcat. We are pleased to share their stories as they reflect on their time at UArizona. Next up in the senior spotlight series is Kiah Sleiman.

Kiah Sleiman

Hometown: Tucson, AZ

Department: Chemistry & Biochemistry

College of Science: Why did you choose your area of study?

Kiah: In my life, I have always been encouraged to understand the “why” whenever I learned something new, which allowed my curiosity to flourish. My job leading into my college years was a lifeguard at a therapeutic facility, where I interacted with elderly people with many different ailments that did not have direct treatments, like rheumatoid arthritis. The treatments for RA target mostly the symptoms rather than the root of the disease, and in my curiosity of why autoimmunity is more severe in some individuals than others, I joined an RA research lab my senior year of high school. Inspired with what I learned working there, I had decided that I wanted to do biomedical research, and biochemistry is the perfect area of study to provide the base knowledge required to branch into many more nuanced fields, like immunology. With biochemistry, I established a foundation for myself that I would be able to build on in whatever specific field of research that I decide to pursue, while not limiting myself when first starting college.

COS: Tell us about a class or research project you really enjoyed.

Kiah: Having worked in an immunology lab throughout college, I finally had a chance to take an immunology class my Fall semester senior year with Dr. Wilbur. Being able to go back to basics and build an understanding of the immune system as a whole, rather than immediately focusing on the narrow portion that I had been studying in lab, gave me a new appreciation for what I had been observing and opened up new avenues and questions to pursue. After that class, it really felt like everything clicked into place in my experiences of the previous years. Dr. Wilbur’s Art Show elevated the whole class to another level, when, after having delved into a complex topic like immunology all semester, you have to then step back and think creatively about how to simplify the topic enough to become approachable to someone outside the field.

COS: What is one specific memory from your time at UA that you'll cherish forever?

Kiah: Before COVID hit my sophomore year, I had just begun the process of expanding my focuses beyond academics and trying to be social. Post-COVID, developing a strong social life seemed impossible, but the friendships I had formed pre-COVID actually solidified during quarantine. Between FaceTime and Zoom, we were able to have study sessions and still have fun while being socially distanced. Before quarantine, one friend and I would cook together every Saturday, trying new recipes and experimenting with weird fruits. At one point during the lockdown, we decided to try to do that again virtually and find something we both could make with what we had in our kitchens. After a long rabbit hole of bizarre adaptations of recipes from the Great Depression, we eventually landed on making tortillas from scratch. While it wasn’t a complex recipe, the return to some level of normalcy along with the chaos of trying to make tortillas over FaceTime together filled me with hope, and I will take that experience with me forever. I had never been so excited to have a tortilla as I was in that moment, and even today we still reference the hilarity of effectively hosting cooking shows for a 3 ingredient, very simple recipe.

COS: What is next for you after graduation?

Kiah: After graduation, I will be continuing my education in pursuit of a PhD in Biology from Baylor University.