Class of 2023: Yasmin Farzan named Outstanding Senior for the College of Engineering
From academic achievement and cultural ambassadorship to undergraduate research and stand-up comedy, this graduating senior has packed a range of college experiences into her undergraduate career.
Name: Yasmin Farzan
Major/minor: Chemical engineering, with minors in computer science, chemistry, and mathematics
Hometown: Shiraz, Iran
Plans after graduation: Go to work as an engineer for ExxonMobil in Baytown, Texas
Favorite Hokie memory: Helping organize a ChemE formal dance. “It was just beautiful to see my friends and their dates super dressed up. We missed a lot during COVID, and just bringing back that energy was really good for me,” she said. “Chemical engineering is such a great community to be part of.”
In Yasmin Farzan’s undergraduate career at Virginia Tech, diversity has been her watchword. From courses of study, undergraduate research, and student organizations to community service and plans for future degrees, this year’s College of Engineering Outstanding Senior has packed in as many experiences and classes as possible.
“She is one of the most diligent, most active, and best all-around students I have taught,” said Y.A. Liu, Farzan’s academic advisor. “Her course schedules have been chosen to maximize learning — not just her GPA. Yasmin Farzan is an extraordinary person, an excellent student, and a bold leader.”
Despite keeping a formidable schedule, Farzan is known amongst classmates and friends for her calm demeanor and her sense of humor. They are traits she said she has cultivated since moving to the United States from Iran to attend high school.
“Growing up in Iran, I had to deal with lots of stress,” Farzan said. “When I came to the U.S., the conversion ratio of the dollar to Iranian rial was one to three. Today it’s one to 60. Imagine that everything you owned dropped in value by a factor of 20 in just a few years. But when I came to Virginia Tech, I felt free to have the full college experience.”
And she has. Farzan not only will receive a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering this month, but she’ll have completed minors in chemistry, mathematics, and computer science.
Connecting outside the classroom
She hasn’t confined herself to the classroom or the laboratory, though. Farzan has vigorously pursued the university’s motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). She has been a leader in the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), where in her senior year she is helping organize and run the first Mid-Atlantic Regional AIChE conference to come to Virginia Tech in more than 20 years. And she is a founding member of the new Women and Gender Minorities in Chemical Engineering group that brings together underrepresented faculty and students.
Farzan said her culture remains important to her. As part of the Iranian Society at Virginia Tech and the Middle Eastern and North African Student Association, she has been an ambassador. She also has been a strong advocate for cultural diversity, helping found Model United Nations at Virginia Tech. Her commitment to her discipline and the wider campus earn her high praise from faculty.
“Yasmin is an outstanding student whose academic excellence and breadth of experiences indicate that she will excel in her future career,” said Associate Professor Stephen Martin. “She is also an individual that strongly believes in using her talents to benefit people and communities around her through personal leadership and mentoring activities.”
Amidst her many activities, Farzan has found time to pursue another passion: entertaining people. On Wednesday evenings, she sometimes has taken the stage at the Milk Parlor, a downtown Blacksburg venue, where she turned experiences like airport layovers and her first casino visit into stand-up comedy.
“I think I have lived a very funny life in general, and I love talking about it,” she said.
Thriving in community
Farzan speaks fondly of the home she found in the chemical engineering department, starting with her first interactions as a sophomore with undergraduate advisor Gary Whiting, who she said set up a Zoom call immediately after getting an email from Farzan. “He was super personable and super helpful,” she said. “He had all the answers to all my many questions.”
Liu, who has been a mentor to generations of students, made an impression. Even his emails communicate his faith in students, Farzan said. “He thinks we all can be CEOs. It’s really beautiful. And he’s available to help us 24/7. It’s amazing.”
After last year’s shooting at Blacksburg’s Melody Hookah Lounge that killed a high school student and injured four from Virginia Tech, Farzan recalled the caring of Associate Professor Ayman Karim. “He offered us a safe space to talk about how it affected us,” she said. “He always filled up the room with his energy.”
Connecting past and future
Farzan remains connected to Iran, where her parents still live. Those ties continue to shape her career plans and fuel her passion for learning. To better understand the economic pressures that can challenge governments and people, Farzan said she hopes to pursue a Master of Business Administration.
“I think I have always had a great passion for economics, and my dad is really involved in that area as well,” Farzan said. “I find it very interesting to think about how money works in general. Like, why do some startups end up making millions of dollars, while others fail? So I want to analyze it all more closely.”
Oh, and did she mention that she plans to complete a master’s degree in chemical engineering, too? But her first stop after commencement will be a general engineering job at ExxonMobil in Baytown, Texas. Unsurprisingly, it was the diversity of her fellow new hires that drew her to the job.
“Other companies I interviewed with only seem to hire from two or three different universities,” she said. “But Exxon gathered all kinds of science and engineering majors together from all over the world. It’s beautiful.”