Dr. Mushtaq Khan is a senior professor in the Chemistry department. He joined Union County College 20 years ago and has since been teaching the mainstream two-semester organic chemistry and one-semester organic and biochemistry courses. Dr. Khan also served as the chair of the Chemistry department. He mentors students interested in getting into health and chemical industries. His research interests include the isolation, identification, and synthesis of natural products. Dr. Khan has a B.S. from Osmania University, an M.S. from Aligarh Muslim University, and a Ph.D. from Aligarh Muslim University.
Q: So your students adore you, your fellow faculty think you’re swell, and we’re really happy you chose to be a professor at Union County College. So tell us how you wound up here.
A: It’s really interesting. I was working at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and involved in a long-distance relationship with my wife, Ayesha, who was in Houston. She was 500 miles away and the traveling was taking its toll on both of us. I started looking for a new job and she began looking for a transfer. Then by 1993, she was able to transfer to New Jersey. She was in management at Walgreens. And Union County College hired me to teach chemistry.
Q: Why were you working 500 miles apart?
A: We were married in India in 1987 and then emigrated to the United States in 1989. My first position was a voluntary position with the University of Texas in Austin, where I spent a couple of months before joining the Chemistry Department, South Dakota State University, Brookings as a post doc for one year. Then I went for a year to Ferris State University in northern Michigan as a sabbatical replacement. After that, I became an assistant professor of chemistry at Oklahoma State University and spent two years there.
Q: But why was your wife in Texas?
A: She had family there and when we left India, she was able to get a supervisory position at Walgreens.
Q: Why’d you two leave India?
A: I had finished my Ph.D. at Aligarh Muslim University.
Q: In India?
A: Yes. It’s about 60 miles east of New Dehli.
Q: Is that where you’re from?
A: No, I grew up farther south, in the same hometown of Microsoft’s new CEO (Satya Nadella).
Q: So how did you and your wife meet?
A: We had an arranged marriage. Our families knew of one another. Actually, our older siblings were family acquaintances. The custom was for the man and the woman to have a meeting for a couple of hours and exchange plans. I was fresh out of my Ph.D. program in India and she wanted to go live near her family in Texas, so both of us agreed that we needed to move on.
Q: So what’s your attraction to chemistry?
A: I always liked the sciences and was a good student in both biology and chemistry. Studying organic chemistry made a lot of sense for me; it connected the dots. As I say to my students, once you get over the stumbling blocks, you can feel really comfortable studying organic chemistry. My research interest is in investigating how chemistry and biochemistry occur in the body, within a biological system. I was publishing papers focusing on the synthesis of medicinal compounds and the chemistry of natural products.
Q: And your attraction to New Jersey?
A: My wife was able to transfer here with Walgreens. When I first started at Union, I was able to be with our two young sons, Faraz and Faiz. My older (Faraz) is now in medical school in Albany and my younger son is at Brown University and has been accepted into medical school. By the way, Faraz is a graduate of Union County College. He was in the “Bridge” program with the vocational-technical schools and at the same time he graduated from high school, he also had an associate degree.
Q—And your attraction to Union County College?
A—I love my colleagues and I especially love the students. My students know where to find me when they need help. I thrive on their energy.