Azerbaijani Lifehack – the story of a girl who inspires us all      
August 9, 2023

Azerbaijani Lifehack – the story of a girl who inspires us all      

Author: Khalid Alakbarov

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is perhaps one of the most prestigious universities in the world. This scientific and educational institution makes a huge contribution to science and modern technology. Understandably, professors and associate professors at MIT want to teach the very brightest and work with those students who have the most academic potential. Admission to this university is very difficult, whatever subject you want to study. It is equally difficult to pay for a university education. 

One Azerbaijani girl has nevertheless managed to enter a fully funded master’s programme at this university. What is the secret of her success? Amongst other things, this is a story where strong determination and the culture instilled by her family played a significant role in her success. 

Let me introduce you to Laman Jalil, a graduate chemical engineering student at MIT.

During her childhood, Laman’s grandparents taught her how to play different board games, how to succeed and play to  win. This was where she learnt to apply critical thinking and logical contemplation, so since her childhood years she has always been involved in thinking processes. Instead of just playing with dolls she preferred building Lego constructions. In addition, her paternal grandfather, Qurban Cəlilov Nizaməddinoğlu, was an academician in applied mathematics, while her father, who gained a doctorate in mechanics and mathematics, worked in the IT industry. She also grew up with a very strong female role model in her mum, who was the first female process engineer for BP Azerbaijan and currently works in senior leadership as an engineering discipline manager. So since her childhood, Laman has been used to being around engineers and people working in the STEM field. And because of seeing her mum as an engineer, she never considered it to be unusual. It was only later, when she went to school, that she faced the challenge of female under-representation in STEM.

Laman graduated from School-Lyceum Number 6 with a gold medal, getting an “A” in all her school subjects, and also winning Olympiads.  In her school days, she also participated in, and won, various local and international competitions, such as ‘Sabahın Alimləri’ (Scientists of Tomorrow), where she presented an engineering project for the first time of her life. The project was about a prototype of an automobile that was driven by green energy based on salt and water. Winning a medal in that competition consolidated her decision to become an engineer. Nevertheless, she also focused on developing such skills as public speaking, and through being engaged with the field of international relations. “I really think that the privilege of becoming an engineer is that you learn how to properly structure your thoughts in such a way that problem solving becomes quite a natural habit,” she says. While at school, she also presented her first engineering project. She scored 680 out of a possible 700 points in the state exam and entered the French-Azerbaijani University. Laman recalled one of the most memorable routines of her childhood: when she got home from school, she always did her maths homework straight away, even before eating lunch. During her studies, she continued to participate in various international competitions and win new awards. Laman entered MIT with a fully-funded scholarship and now works there as a teaching assistant. She speaks six languages, including French and German, and is about to learn more!  Laman says she has always felt supported by her family, within which she was surrounded by people working in STEM, but in particular by her mother.  

“Of course, any person, even in their 20s and 30s, wants to turn to their parents for advice, for wisdom,” says Laman. How did this Azerbaijani girl manage to achieve so much? In my opinion, the foundations of her remarkable journey started at home. Just as a father is an example to his son, a mother is an example to her daughter. Together they can have a huge impact on their child. As we see in Layman’s case, family members passed on their knowledge and skills, and most importantly their passion for education and science, from generation to generation. This story speaks not so much about genius or love for the subject, but about strong family ties. And, yes, they can even lead you through the walls of MIT and to a bright future. 

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