2016 Tillman Scholar
Enlisting in the Army right out of high school, Khalida intended to enlist for five years then get out and go to college. Looking to secure a place on a Human Intelligence Team (HUMINT) in Kosovo, Khalida taught herself Albanian and was eventually selected for the U.S. Army Parachute Team. Over 13 years, she traveled to 30 different countries, discovering along the way a fascination with particle physics. Deciding that she wanted to be a scientist, Khalida switched to the Army Reserves in order to go to college. The most important thing Khalida learned in the Army was perspective. Her military service has given her tremendous gratitude for everything she has and through that gratitude, renewed motivation to continue working towards her goals.
Though eligible for retirement soon, Khalida plans to stay in the Army Reserves for as long as she can and intends to earn a Ph.D. in theoretical particle physics, do a post-doctorate position and become a university professor. With women still extremely underrepresented in science in general and physics in particular, Khalida feels she could be an important role model for budding female scientists at a small state university. The experiences of women in physics are not unlike what Khalida faced in the military: always being surrounded by men and learning ways to survive in such environments while doing other physically and mentally challenging tasks. Humbled by brilliant young women who have told her that she is a role model to them, Khalida hopes to inspire women to reach for their dreams for as long as she can.