Ilma received her bachelor's degree (honors) from New York University Abu Dhabi in 2018, majoring in chemistry with a minor in applied mathematics. In the group of Professor Ali Trabolsi at NYUAD, Ilma worked on the development of calixarene-based porous polymers for water purification. As part of her studies, Ilma also spent a summer at MIT in the group of Professor Mircea Dincă, where she investigated the potential of titanium-based metal-organic frameworks to be used for catalysis of polymerization reactions. Ilma joined the group in October 2018 as a PhD student funded by Magdalene College and the Cambridge Trust.