Johnian magazine issue 50, spring 2023
Rahat Uddin: one to watch
Rahat Uddin (2019) recently graduated with a BA in Chemical Engineering and has now begun to teach Chemistry at his old sixth form. Here Rahat talks about his inspirations and motivations and how
a commitment to access made teaching a natural vocation for him.
It never occurred to me that I had a passion for science until the end of Year 12. I had chosen my A Level subjects without much thought, just doing what I assumed an average boy from East London would study. I remember sitting in Chemistry learning bond resonance in benzene, when I realised that I genuinely found the interactions between atoms, and more importantly how those interactions translated to the properties of chemicals, fascinating. I found it amazing how benzene and methane both contained only carbon and hydrogen but had completely different properties based on their structures. Over the summer I decided to apply for Natural Sciences at St John’s. After the first year, I realised that the lectures I enjoyed the most were those that focused on the application of science through a mathematical lens, which led me to switch to the Chemical Engineering Tripos.
While my time at Cambridge was tough, looking back I can say that I miss it. I’m particularly grateful for the opportunities I had to develop myself. The start of my first year was particularly challenging; trying to adapt to a different demographic while balancing studies is a hill that many have to climb. During my teenage years my Islamic faith had become increasingly important and it continues to do so each day. At Cambridge I got involved in the Islamic Society (ISoc), and I found a safe space where I could meet people from similar backgrounds and learn more about my faith.
Here, I found another passion: access work, supporting students from widening participation backgrounds in their journey to higher education. Throughout my life I’ve been blessed with a lot of support. Without my parents’ selflessness I could not be where I am today. My father worked countless hours and my mother devoted her life to raising me and my siblings. From this I learnt that when you can give to those around you, you should. As part of the Access Team in the ISoc, I ran an Access Conference in 2021, which hosted disadvantaged students from around the country for free. We also ran an online tutoring service during lockdown in conjunction with the Cambridge Central Mosque and personal statement workshops, which were successful and rewarding projects.
I’m grateful for having had teachers who believed in me. My secondary school was in Dagenham, and my sixth form in Newham, which were among the most deprived areas in the country. There were many challenges and pressures at school, but I’m glad my teachers saw potential in me and pushed me in the right direction. With my passion for access work and my religious values, it was almost a no brainer to pursue teaching. My head teacher offered me a place to teach at my old sixth form. I took it, knowing I had literally been in my students’ seats (my classroom is my old chemistry classroom!) not too long ago. In future I hope to be in a position to make more influential decisions at the school.
It is narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that only three good deeds continue after death: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge (that is passed on) and a righteous child that prays for you. Through my work I find peace knowing that I’m able to spread beneficial knowledge and hope that my students can act on it to become professionals who serve the community themselves.
Rahat is a recent graduate who is now working as a Chemistry teacher at Newham Collegiate Sixth Form. He has a passion for access and ran an online tutoring service during lockdown and an access conference with the University’s Islamic Society while he was a student.