People often find meaning and purpose in their life by being part of something bigger than themselves. Being a part of this learning, teaching, and discovery circle gives meaning to my moments. I belong with the academia.Academia is my sports team. Together, we will find the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.
I was born in Tehran, Iran. I wanted to study physics in college. But I was told that I could not make money if I studied physics (the joke is on you, physicists now crank numbers for Wall Street and make some decent pounds and shillings). So like many other Iranians, my choices were between medical or engineering school. I reasoned that engineering has physics and medicine has biochemistry, so engineering. Electrical engineering, in fact. And then, at some point, I fell in love with biomedical engineering. I was fascinated by medical imaging tools. It was in the medical imaging courses that I learned about fMRI. The physics of medical imaging was excellent but oh boy, imaging brain activity? Sign me up. I am in love.
Long story short, Josh Berke once gave a lecture at Michigan State. I liked his presentation, both the style and subject matter. I read a few of his (lab’s) papers. I liked them too. I decided I wanted to learn from him and publish one of those papers together with him. So I knocked on his door and asked for a position. I guess he took the risk to take me in; I didn’t have much neurobiology background. It wasn’t easy in the beginning. I had to learn neurobiology and behavior. That was the easy part. I had to learn to think like a scientist. I was trained as an engineer. Engineers are excellent at problem-solving. Give them a problem, and they will find a solution. But a good scientist should be able to ask good questions. Questions are more important than answers, in science, in my opinion. It took a village to teach me the stuff (thank you to Josh, Jeff, Erin, and Michael). Now I am ready to start my own venture. I love to ask never-ending questions and spend the rest of my life finding answers to those questions; after all, I am an engineer turned neuroscientist.
I am grateful to all those who believed in me and helped me find my way here, from my Farsi literature teacher in the 3rd grade (Mr. Kamal-el-Din Adel), who hooked me up to science fiction, to Vijay Namboodiri, who welcomed me to his lab and is helping me master an extra technique that I need for my research program. Over the years, I have received support and mentorship from a number of generous individuals, some within my institutions and some not. Looking back, I am stoked by how many open doors and smiles I encountered. I have tried to pay them back. I will keep paying back forever. Science is hard. Discoveries are rare and sparse. Mentorship, though, is a pure, continuous, and never-ending source of energy that keeps my work environment warm, every day. The joy of teaching someone something that I know, and observing their growth and success in time, drives me to work every day (well, I bike, but you get the point, right?).
A few Favourites of mine
Favourite Films (random order):
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- The Lives of Others
- The Before Trilogy
- The Koker Trilogy
- Howl’s Moving Castle
Favourite TV Shows (random order):
- The Wire
- The Americans
- The Office
- BoJack Horseman
- Better Call Saul
Favourite Music tracks (random order):
- Comfortably numb
- Exit music (For a film)
- Time (both Pink Floyd and Hans Zimmer versions)
Favourite Books (random order):
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being
- Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them
- Cat’s Cradle
- 23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism
- The Museum of Innocence
- Brain Inspired
- Modern Love
- Philosophize This!
- Where Should We Begin? (with Esther Perel)
- Scientific American
- The New Yorker
- The Atlantic (I am not a regular, but I enjoy it when I read it)