Meet Rehana Khan

Learn about the inspirational journey of Rehana Khan.

Chase Your Dreams and Embrace STEMM with Passion

Growing up in a middle-class family in India, I had a childhood filled with love, empathy, numerous challenges, and a deep-seated desire to make a difference. One strong memory that has stayed with me is the train rides with my mom, where I would often see blind individuals navigating their way through life with incredible strength. Their silent struggles left a lasting impact on my young sensitive heart, and my mom’s words—”Grow up and help those who cannot see”—became the guiding light of my journey.

I always knew I wanted to become a doctor, but the road to medical school seemed dauntingly distant due to financial constraints. Determined to take a step towards my dream, I pursued optometry—a field that allowed me to improve people’s vision through prescribing glasses. While this brought me immense satisfaction, I soon realized that I wanted to do more than just correct vision; I wanted to prevent the very conditions that lead to vision loss. 

Transitioning from clinical practice to research was challenging, marked by numerous struggles, failures, and, importantly, achievements. The turning point came when I was offered the opportunity to pursue a PhD in Vision Science and Artificial Intelligence in UNSW, Sydney Australia. For someone who had never been beyond home, school, or college, it was a bold leap—a decision made with immense determination. This path meant leaving behind the familiar comforts of home, departing from loved ones, living independently, facing challenges head-on, and embracing a world full of new opportunities. 

Amidst the hustle and bustle of research, juggling work and life responsibilities, and moments of quiet contemplation, I found myself growing in ways I never imagined. Learning coding from scratch, networking with people, diving deep into the complexities of vision research, and discovering the transformative potential of artificial intelligence in healthcare—all of these experiences have transformed me from a shy person into a stronger woman. 

Every day, as I dive deeper into my research on early detection and prevention of ocular and systemic diseases, I am reminded of why I embarked on this journey. My mom’s words continue to echo in my mind, urging me to make a meaningful impact in the lives of those affected by blindness and other eye conditions. 

This is not just about my academic pursuits; it is a reflection of my personal growth. It highlights how dreams can change us, the strength we gain from never giving up, and the limitless possibilities that await when we dare to follow our passion. As I continue on this path, I have learned that the STEMM journey is not just a destination to reach, but a path that unfolds before us when passion leads the way. 

Inspiring Young Minds: a glimpse into our outreach events at local schools

A brief summary of your blog post for search engines. “STEMM champions outreach activities 2024” 

By: Lilly Hatwell, Clinical MED Teaching Support, UNSW, Sydney.

Recently, our champions have been out in the community visiting local schools with a mission to ignite a passion for all things STEMM through engaging talks and hands-on demonstrations. Our group, consisting of higher degree and early career researchers from various fields, was thrilled to share our personal journeys into the world of STEMM and provide a practical, exciting glimpse into who we are and what we do.

The power of personal stories

Our first outreach event took place at Killarney Heights High School. Our talks to the year 10 cohort focused on the diverse paths we each took to pursue careers in STEMM. From overcoming challenges to switching career paths, each story was unique. Alex spoke on her journey from professional dance into immunology, Nora spoke on the diverse opportunities in the field of ecology, Kayla opened our eyes to the world of physics and lasers and Lilly and Elissa shared their experiences of growing up in small towns and their unconventional paths into science. Our goal was to show students that a career in STEMM is not only about having top grades but also about resilience, curiosity, and a love of learning.

Hands on science

At the primary schools, our approach was very interactive. At both Rainbow Street Primary School and Mascot Primary School, we set up several stations, each dedicated to a different area of STEMM. Students from years 5-6 absolutely buzzed as they made their way from one station to another, experiencing all that STEMM has to offer. At one station, 3D models allowed students to build chemical structures whilst at another station fossils were buried in sand pits waiting to be discovered. The planetarium was a crowd favourite, allowing the students to get up close and personal with the solar system and science got messy with DNA extractions from strawberries. We also had a model of the human body with removable organs, 3D printed viruses and dichroic cubes to investigate the wonders of light and rainbows.

Our team guided them through each demonstration, explaining STEMM in fun, accessible ways. The energy was infectious, with students eagerly participating, asking questions about what we do day-to-day, as well as sharing with us what they want to be when they grow up and their ideas for new inventions.


The feedback from teachers and students was overwhelmingly positive. Teachers appreciated that we brought the world of STEMM to life and noted that students were engaged and enthusiastic following our visit. Many students from Rainbow Street Primary School even wrote us letters thanking us for the experience. “I really enjoyed getting to know how vaccines work. It was really cool!” one student wrote. Another wrote, “You all have inspired me a lot more to be fascinated about the topic science.”

For us, the event was an important reminder of why we chose STEMM. We can sometimes be so deep in the intricacies of our research that we forget to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Engaging with the students not only allowed us to share our knowledge but also to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians. These outreach events were a huge success, reminding us of the joy and responsibility we have in shaping curious young minds.