My Journey from Somi to Samira Ahmad, BEM

by Samira Ahmad

Lighthouse Magazine, April to May 2022 Issue (p. 18)

I was born and brought up in Pakistan. I was an ordinary middleclass girl called Somi. I was not clear about my future or career when I was young. I was very happy and had a simple life, but it suddenly changed after the death of my father. I continued my education and faced more challenges in life. After finishing my education — Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Bachelor of Education (BEd) — I got married and went to England.

When I arrived in the UK, a new life with bigger challenges was ready for me. It was very hard for me to understand the British culture and blend in. My husband advised me to use my education. So, I applied for a job at the Veterinary Laboratory Agency, now the Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA), and somehow, I got the job! It was a massive turning point in my life. In the beginning I didn’t really enjoy it, I found it hard to understand my role and work with men as well. But with the help of my co-workers, I overcame that and started taking an interest in what I was doing. I learnt how different tests to diagnose diseases in animals such as E. canis, DGGE, and Elisa tests work, and it opened my eyes and mind.

I became excited when I got the opportunity to observe DNA bands on gels or when I would look under the microscope and think about how Allah created these little things in such detail. I fell in love with this magical and fantastic world of science, and I think that researching things that cannot be seen with the naked eye is very inspiring. As time passed, I also trained and mentored many new starters. Alongside work, I also got time to volunteer, because APHA allows us to have a good balance with work and personal life.

I have no idea who, but someone from work put my name forward for the New Year Honours List 2021 and I was fortunate to be awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for my contributions at work and in the community. So, this ordinary girl Somi became Samira Ahmad, BEM. I am lucky that I continue to work with a good team and get to learn from them. It is a wonderful experience to work with APHA and in the field of science. I recommend finding something you are passionate about to get the best experience of life. Don’t be afraid to try new things. It takes time to find what is right for you, but with Allah’s help you can do things you never imagined you could do.

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