Personifying the Importance of Mentorship in Graduate Studies | Emory University

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Emory Report | May 10, 2021

Mentoring days for doctoral student Alisina Bazrafshan have started at Tehran University. He continued this work while studying at Laney Graduate School, promoting the importance of higher education to underserved youth from Atlanta refugee families.

Alisina Bazrafshan started her journey with Laney Graduate School in 2016 after studying at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran. He would earn a PhD in chemistry from Emory, leaving faculty and students with fond memories of a natural mentor.

Laney Graduate School recognizes Bazrafshan’s work and impact in this regard by naming him the recipient of the 2021 Eleanor Main Student Mentor Award. Named in honor of the late Eleanor Main, a transformative leader at Emory and a dedicated advocate of the higher education, the award recognizes individuals who exemplify the highest quality mentorship in higher education.

Shortly after arriving at Emory in 2016, Bazrafshan joined the Development of the educational experience of students Program (SEED). Through him, Bazrafshan has led several successful initiatives to promote the importance of higher education to high school students in Atlanta, with a focus on high school refugees in the Atlanta area. From 2017 to 2019, he served as chair of the SEED program, increasing its impact within the Emory community and locally.

During his presidency, Bazrafshan organized academic and professional development experiences for high school students interested in STEM, including campus tours, research workshops, and financial planning seminars. While at Emory, he continued his work with the SEED program, most recently as Vice President.

Bazrafshan used his expertise to develop the academic and professional skills of Emory’s undergraduate students in the lab. Undergraduate chemistry students and SEED members Ambika Natarajan and Muhammad Mukarram wrote a letter expressing their gratitude for his mentorship.

“Countless times we have seen him sacrifice his time and energy to achieve the goals of our organization,” they wrote in a joint statement. “His enthusiasm and enjoyment of research led us both to pursue research as undergraduates at Emory, and he was also supportive and encouraging when we encountered unexpected challenges in our respective projects.

As Bazrafshan’s reputation as a well-respected mentor grew among his peers, professors began to take notice.

“Alisina already came to the doctoral program with the mentorship bug,” says Khalid Salaita, associate professor of chemistry and professor in Wallace H. Coulter’s department of biomedical engineering. “In fact, I have heard wonderful stories about how Alisina mentored and mentored other students in Iran as a college student herself.

Bazrafshan’s research at Emory included work in Salaita’s lab. Bazrafshan studied the design principles of fast and processive synthetic DNA engines, elucidated the growth mechanism of 2D peptide nanosheets, and visualized cellular forces with high spatial resolution in the laboratory.

Salaita says of the Eleanor Main Student Mentor Award: “I cannot imagine a more deserving student for this recognition. Alisina sets the bar very high. “

Upon graduation, Bazrafshan will assume his postdoctoral position at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Cornell University.

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