Choosing Lansing: Khalid Ibrahim
Artists and scientists usually have the pleasure of one another's company in a badly designed joke, so to meet someone who's whole being confines both is quite a unique opportunity. We find such a person in Khalid Ibrahim. By day, Khalid is lab bound at MSU’s Biomedical Research Informatics Core (BRIC), working as a scientist. Every other moment is spent as an artist, telling photographic stories as Eat Pomegranate Photography.
A Provincial Start
Khalid grew up in Pakistan; his father was a pilot and his mother an elementary school teacher. His father’s work took the family all over the country, giving Khalid the opportunity to experience each of Pakistan’s four provinces prior to the age of 12. The diversity of adventures sticks with Khalid, as he recalls the agricultural culture of Pakistan, the desert life in Sindh, and his summer spent in the Himalayas.
“I often miss my family in Pakistan, my friends, South Asian street food, the busy streets with traffic police instead of traffic lights, and warmth of Punjab,” he reflects, “but after all these years in Lansing, my heart is definitely here. “
Michigan welcomed 12-year-old Khalid in 1996 when his family relocated to Troy.
After living in Michigan for close to five years, Khalid chose Michigan State University to pursue his undergraduate degree. He moved to East Lansing as a wide-eyed 17-year-old MSU freshman to study human biology.
Drawn to the way Lansing embraces its residents and the feeling of community that pervades the city, Khalid made the move to Lansing in 2005. He explains, “I don't know what it was about living in East Lansing, but Lansing seemed so far away. Now, every time I come across younger students I make sure to tell them that Lansing isn't as scary as it may seem from the other side of Harrison Road.”
2005 also marked the end of Khalid’s undergraduate studies and the beginning of some major professional and academic choices.
“I was looking at graduate programs in epidemiology all over the country. I visited a private university in New York, but it was hard to compare the big city to the comforts of the Midwest.”
He settled on a graduate program at Michigan State and believes that it was a wise decision to choose to stay in the area. For his thesis, Khalid traveled to Pakistan to conduct one of the first studies on autism in his native country, fully funded by the University. He says, “It is unlikely that I would have had all this funding support at a private university in New York. Michigan State University was a perfect choice.”
His choice in program also opened the door in 2006 to his current position at the Biomedical Research Informatics Core (BRIC
), a division under the Clinical and Translation Sciences Institute (CTSI)
Khalid explains for us laymen, “BRIC assists professors all over the world with their research protocols by developing specialized software to conduct bench-side clinical research. CTSI facilitates the transfer of knowledge from bench-side science to bed-side clinical practice.”
While at BRIC, Khalid has been involved in many aspects of clinical research; aided in writing clinical research protocols, managed study teams, helped design data collection protocols, and wrote clinical manuscripts, to name a few. He has also had the opportunity to travel to Nigeria every year for the last four years to investigate bacterial diseases in African children.
2012 marks an exciting, but also scary year in Khalid's life, as he prepares to defend his thesis this year.
When he’s not researching and thesis defense-prepping, Khalid can usually be found behind the lens of a camera. The name of his business, Eat Pomegranate
, captures his philosophy about photography; but the story behind the name is a narrative not very many folks have the opportunity to understand. “In a social setting, there isn't enough time to tell the whole story,” he jokes, “but in this case I have your attention and a little bit more time.”
He paints a picture of hot Pakistani afternoons, recalling his mother and grandmother preparing pomegranates for the family to eat…
“Pomegranate seeds are so delicate, and when you open up a fresh pomegranate, juice splashes all over the place. I remember how clean, perfect, and simple a bowl of pomegranate seeds looked. It’s hard to think of the messy preparation if you’re just eating seeds from a bowl. I like to think of my photography in a similar way: the person who may see the final photograph is often oblivious to what goes into making a good picture. Having said that, I wouldn't have it any other way. I love the idea of presenting someone a clean final product without them having any thought about what it takes to get to that final product. I think this disregard lets people enjoy the final version a little more, just like I enjoy pomegranate seeds in a bowl.”
Storytelling in Lansing
As a storyteller, Khalid is drawn to the stories generated from the diversity of people who inhabit the Lansing area.
“As I’ve spent more time in this city, I’ve realized that Lansing is home to people from such diverse backgrounds. Every one of us enjoys this city in a very different light.” This personal realization lead to the birth of the Lansing Collective
blog, which debuted close to a year ago. The blog features voices throughout the city, sharing their love for Lansing from their unique perspectives and experiences. Khalid serves as founder and arts editor.
From Khalid’s unique perspective, Lansing works for him because of its sense of community.
“Last year I had a house fire,” he elaborates, “and this whole community came together to help me. It has been several months now and I am still overwhelmed by the level of support. I often talk to older people who have seen this city evolve and they often reminisce about the heyday of Lansing. I think Lansing is well on its way back. There is a beautiful campus nearby and there is all kinds of entertainment, but most importantly, there is a great collection of creative and energized minds in one small place. There is no comparison to the level of passion people have for this city.”