Ontogeny I was a naturalist at birth and as such I had a strong love of collecting things from nature (e.g., rocks, bones, shells, insects, etc.). I always had a desire to become a scientist but my background made that ambition challenging to fulfill. My family and I fled our home in Iran in the late '80's during the Iran-Iraq war. We immigrated west and eventually settled in Canada, where we re-started our lives. The people around me throughout my childhood and adolescence believed that wanting to become a scientist was tantamount to wanting to become a movie star; it was an impractical fantasy. My family sacrificed a great deal to restart our lives and it was important for those of us in the younger generation to pursue more straightforward careers. Turned out, however, not to be an impractical fantasy.
1985 Enjoying nature in Khazar Shahr, a beautiful seaside summer home town by the Caspian Sea in Iran
1987 My family left Iran and spent some time in Kinshasa, DR Congo before we moved to Italy and awaited our immigration.
1994 Throughout my childhood, I was on my own to pursue my naturalist tendencies. You can see me here (far left) getting very excited over a garter snake sighting on my 5th grade school trip to Québec City, Canada.
2005 In the mid-'90s my family and I made our way to the U.S. and settled in Washington D.C., where I went to college and discovered like-minded peers and mentors. Here, I'm on a night herping trip in Virginia with peers, looking for spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum)
2005-2010 During my time in Washington D.C. I became a research student at the Smithsonian and pursued my dream of working with natural history collections under the mentorship of Dr. Roy W. McDiarmid
2017 Ph.D. hooding ceremony at Utah State University with my advisor, Dr. Alan H. Savitzky
College was the turning point in my life, where, for the first time, my love of science was recognized and even encouraged. I was influenced very strongly by a handful of incredible mentors, including faculty at my university and scientists at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. During my time as an undergraduate I received the opportunities to truly pursue my dream career. It was an incredible feeling to realize I was finally an insider of the world I wanted to be a part of so badly since childhood. As a result of my experience, today I put a lot of effort into undergraduate mentorship and I actively seek out students who have the drive to become great scientists but who lack experience and who need guidance. It's the most rewarding part of my job. I also hope that my story might influence and encourage students who might share experiences that parallel my own.