15 Most Interesting seniors 2010: Nworah B. Ayogu

Wilson Yu

CORRECTION APPENDED

In Igbo, “Nworah” means “Child of the Community.” For Nworah B. Ayogu ’10, the name seems especially fitting.

In the Lowell Dining Hall, Ayogu meets with students from his engineering class, working on a project that lets patients in developing nations self-diagnose via text message. He stops, every few seconds, to wave to a friend or chat with a classmate. He seems to know everyone. And he doesn’t even live in Lowell House.

The Currier House resident rattles off a list of extracurricular activies: First Class Marshall, Political Action Chair for the Black Men’s Forum (BMF), Chair of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, First-Year Urban Program Leader, and Institute of Politics Fellow. He has also stepped with the BMF, danced in Ghungroo, directed Cultural Rhythms, mentored high school students, and served on the Undergraduate Council, among other things.

Oh, and he’s trying to cure cancer. The biochemistry concentrator, who is a student in the secondary field in Health Policy, experiments with using viruses as cancer therapies for his senior thesis.

“He has learned above and beyond what he needs to for classes,” says his thesis advisor, Samuel D. Rabkin, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, with whom Ayogu has worked for in the lab for about a year.

“He is clearly intelligent, very inquisitive, and has broad interests,” Rabkin says. “But he’s also very personable and nice to be around. If he knows something that someone needs help with, he’ll never hesitate to help out.”

“Of course he’s technically the most popular kid in our class,” blockmate Derek M. Flanzraich ’10 says, alluding to Ayogu’s position as First Class Marshall. “But so many people respect him because he’s always there for them.”

“He’s always that guy who walks into a party and immediately it’s amped up, or who’ll drop everything for an entire afternoon to help you switch your concentration,” David F. Boswell ’10, another blockmate, says.

Caleb L. Weatherl ’10, who is also a Crimson editorial editor, remembers a time when Ayogu convinced the BMF to co-sponsor a Lincoln Day dinner with the Republican Club, of which Weatherl was previously president. “It was the most successful Lincoln Day dinner in recent history thanks to him—and he’s a Democrat,” says Weatherl.

On paper, Ayogu might sound very serious, but he does not hesitate to admit that he is a Disney movie and musical theater buff, that he collects swords because of a childhood love of Lord of the Rings, that he spends a fair amount of time playing video games and procrastinating on Gchat, that he does have some Miley Cyrus in his extensive iTunes collection, and that yes, he calls his mother every day.

Future plans include medical school, but Ayogu swears that one day, before he graduates, he will record his Currier-inspired album of Quad-related remixes to sing on the shuttle. His version of Lil’ Wayne’s “Lollipop” brags about the Quad’s lack of roaches. “The Quad. It’s coming,” Ayogu says. “And you thought Jay-Z was hot.”

And after a tangent about Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog,” Ayogu pauses. “Basically, I’ve figured out the meaning of life,” Ayogu says. “One, be happy, and two, make other people’s lives better. And that should be one in the same.”

CORRECTION

An earlier version of the Dec. 11 magazine article "15 Most Interesting seniors 2010: Nworah B. Ayogu" incorrectly stated that Caleb L. Weatherl '10 is currently president of the Harvard Republican Club. In fact, Weatherl is a former HRC president.

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