Firdous Farooqui is an adjunct chemistry professor at Fullerton College and Cal State Fullerton and currently works as a Senior Process, Research, & Development (PRD) Chemist at Norac Pharma.
At Fullerton College, she teaches General Chemistry and an online Biotech course, BIOL 194. She has over twenty-five years of biotech research experience and has personally taken part in the design of several types of Beckman Coulter lab equipment on the market today, including DNA sequencers.
Firdous received her undergraduate education and PhD from Indian Institutes of Technology and did her post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She did not come from a family of scientists and was the only child out of six that pursued a science-related career. Her father was a judge while her mother had a non-science undergraduate degree. Similarly, her husband, Dr. Mohd Ansari, also did not come from a science-oriented family. Breaking this trend, she and Dr. Ansari have a son, Saad Ansari, who has found a career in the Quality Control and Assurance (QCQA) field of science.
Firdous took a liking to chemistry early on in her undergraduate studies because of the clarity it afforded her in understanding biological processes. She says, “you don’t understand biology very well until you take chemistry”, and she enjoys the fact that you are able to understand the mechanisms of, say, DNA much more easily when you understand the chemistry behind it. Her love of biochemistry allowed her to get through the difficult parts of understanding science, and she encourages her students to keep pushing through because, “Once you get it, it makes sense”, and eventually comprehending scientific processes will come easier to you. On the same note, she says, "I would definitely encourage [students] to take STEM classes. It does require more effort, more time, but it pays off".
Firdous shared some inspiring words of wisdom about the importance of education saying, "...when [she and her husband] came to the United States, we had only $500. And now that we've gone through the post-doc [program] and we have worked here, we've done pretty good. Now we live in a nice house all because of education".
Advice Firdous would give to Fullerton College students seeking a career in biotech is to, “...take science classes... you will always have a job”. She recommends obtaining at least a Master's degree, if not a Phd- "If you only go after your Bachelor's, you will usually be treated like a technician. There will be more opportunities once you get your Bachelor's, but there will be better opportunities once you get your Master's. If you cannot afford it, just go out to a small company and learn some things. There are a lot of [Biotech] companies in Southern California”.