Layla Ismail – 2023 King County Region Rising Star

girl leans against a blooming cherry tree and looks to the right

Layla Ismail

12th grade
Cleveland STEM High School
Seattle, WA

Layla Ismail has a deep interest in health care, sparked by her own experience with medical disability. She is committed to elevating other young Black women in STEM and is a dedicated member of her school’s HOSA chapter, Black Student Union, and African Student Association.

Get to know Layla

When you were five years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was five, my biggest aspiration was to be a doctor, not because I actually wanted to be one, but because of my mom, who was a nurse’s aide. To my childish brain, I automatically assumed that she was a doctor because she worked at the hospital, and I wanted to be just like her.

If you could teach a class on anything STEM-related, what would it be?
If I could teach a class in STEM, it would definitely be on Latin roots in medicine. I remember learning specific names for diseases and illnesses in life science classes and trying to find commonality between roots. I feel like learning science would have been more straightforward if I had known these roots.

If you had unlimited money, time, and resources, what STEM-related project would you take on?
I would first take on immunotherapy. I’m studying it right now, and it feels so suspenseful that we’re so close to finding a “cure” for cancer. I want to tackle making cancer treatments more accessible.


Pursuing her STEM passion

Layla discusses how her experience with medical disability has impacted her career plans.


From Layla’s Nomination Statement

“Layla’s outspoken acknowledgement of societal inequities is sure to bring about positive change for Black women in STEM.”

“Layla is extremely socially conscious and is often thinking about how to dismantle societal inequities. For example, she is a member of both our school’s Black Student Union and African Student Association and says she wants to bridge the divide between students whose families recently immigrated from Africa and Black students whose families have been in the US for multiple generations. She and some friends of hers are part of a big effort to make the HOSA health occupations club more welcoming to Black students. She took the initiative to create a big “Black History Month” mural on my whiteboard featuring important scientists of color.

Layla is willing to openly acknowledge anything that she feels inadequate or wrong, and then push herself and others to find solutions. She is not the type to let herself or anyone else suffer in silence.”
—Joe Donohoe, Science and CTE Teacher, Cleveland STEM High School



The Washington STEM Rising Star Awards encourage girls to embrace STEM education and to explore the use of STEM in ways that will support their education, career, and personal development and the development and needs of others.

Meet all of the 2023 Washington STEM Rising Stars!