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Congratulations to Teame and Derya, Vertex’s newest Science Leaders Scholars! As they get ready to hit the books for their freshman year at the University of Massachusetts, let’s introduce you to these two outstanding students who have been selected to each receive a four-year, full scholarship to pursue a STEM-related course of study.

An image of Derya Balata smiling in front of a poster board

Derya Balata, future dentist 

UMass Boston 

Major: Biology 

Derya was born and raised in Boston, while her family comes from Kurdistan. She lives in Dorchester and graduated from the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science. Growing up, she was always interested in science and biology — the study of life. “I was always thinking about how things are created and eager to learn more about the way things are created,” said Derya. At first, she thought she wanted to be a doctor but is now thinking more about the field of dentistry. Either way, her goal is to help people and to “always be in an environment filled with people and knowing I’m helping them.”  

She took her first biology class in high school and first learned about Vertex and the Learning Lab on a field trip her freshman year. She loved the company and knew she would return. “I told myself I’m going to come back. I’m going to work here. And when I put my mind to something — I want to get that thing done.” Her persistence paid off, and she joined our Bridge-to-STEM Careers cohort virtually last spring, and she returned this summer as high school intern AND one of Vertex’s two Science Leaders Scholarship recipients. 

When she found out she was receiving the scholarship, she was very surprised. Who was the first person she shared the news with? Her mom. It was a very proud moment for her mom as both of her older children are going to college and receiving scholarships. Derya’s older brother is studying engineering and will be a junior at Wentworth this fall. It’s a proud moment for Derya as well, being one of the first in her family to go to college. She’s eager to show her parents that their sacrifices — moving from their homeland to a new and unfamiliar country — have been worth it. 

As a college student, Derya is excited to explore all the biology department has to offer, network, learn more about the field of medicine, and continue to grow as a young professional. She’s also looking forward to joining the Kurdish Student Association, which is a club dedicated to educating the community about Kurdish culture and history. 

An image of Teame Araya smiling

Teame Araya, future doctor 

UMass Amherst 

Major: Biology 

Teame grew up in Eritrea and moved to Boston at the end of 2018 through a refugee organization (which took him from Eritrea to Sudan and Niger before coming to the United States). He attended Boston International High School and graduated as valedictorian of his class. His favorite STEM subjects are biology and math, and he hopes to become a doctor in the future. “Since I was a child, I wanted to go into the medical field,” said Teame. “I want to be a doctor, because in the place where I grew up in Eritrea, especially in the countryside, it was very difficult to have access to health care. So that has inspired me to be in the medical field to do my part, even if I can’t fix everything.” He will be the first person in his family to go to college. 

Teame was a summer intern last year in the Learning Lab, thanks in part to meeting Chiruza Muhimuzi, one of Vertex’s 2021 Science Leaders Scholarship recipients. Chiruza encouraged him to apply for both the virtual internship last year and the scholarship at Vertex! Teame returned to the Learning Lab in person this year and was encouraged being around scientists and other Vertexians. Between being in the office and working with his manager and mentor, he said, “that was very inspiring, and it just feels like I can achieve my goal. It gave me confidence in myself and my course.” 

As he enters UMass, he looks forward to making new friends, his studies and working in a lab, joining new clubs, and participating in community service projects. One thing he took away from this summer at Vertex was advice to be authentic. In the past, he’s tried to hide part of himself as he didn’t want to stick out as an immigrant. He felt empowered by others to “be yourself — that’s what makes you interesting. That’s why more people will try to invest in you.” He’s looking forward to going to college and just being himself. 

What is the Vertex Science Leaders Scholarship? 

The Vertex Science Leaders Scholarship was established in 2014 and is an integral component of Vertex’s global STEAM education program and $50M commitment to STEAM education. Through this program, Vertex is helping students pursue a career in STEM while also aiming to break down barriers and create economic transformation for people who are traditionally underrepresented in biotech.  

For the Boston Learning Lab, students from partner Boston Public Schools high schools are eligible to apply for the scholarship, which is awarded annually to two students. It provides financial support for tuition, fees, housing and books, as well as special access to the Vertex college summer internship program. Vertex also partners with Bottom Line to provide mentoring and support to the scholars before, during and after college.

Everyone at Vertex is wishing Derya and Teame much success in their first year of college and looks forward to seeing them back at Vertex next summer as college interns.