One day, Nima Fayazmanesh may make an important contribution to the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Today, he is playing clarinet in a salsa band with Latin jazz legend Larry Harlow.
In the future, Fayazmanesh may be a leader in international politics. Today, he is running a marathon.
Tomorrow, Fayazmanesh may teach the next generation of medical students. Today, he is writing a poem.
Fayazmanesh is full of promise – manifold promise. Among UCI’s most academically honored students, he graduated in June 2001 summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, a National Merit Scholar, UC Regents Scholar and member of the Campuswide Honors Program.
He is well on his way to fulfilling all that promise. One of a handful of U.S. college undergraduates selected for a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Amsterdam’s Institute for Neurobiology, he will conduct neuroscience research that could open the doors to how neurological disorders like epilepsy develop and how they can be controlled.
Fayazmanesh is an experienced researcher. Under the supervision of Professor Patrick Morgan, who holds the Thomas T. and Elizabeth C. Tierney Chair in Peace Studies, he completed his honors thesis on U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. The paper was presented to the International Working Group on Value Theory at an Eastern Economic Association conference. For a second honors thesis, he also conducted Alzheimer’s disease studies with researcher J. Patrick Kesslak at the UCI Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia. They achieved some success in reaching their goal of inducing in rats the formation of Alzheimer’s disease characteristics that have been found in humans
Fayazmanesh’s interest in memory began when a high school friend demonstrated memorization and recall of about 50 objects with the help of a mnemonic device. Fayazmanesh was able to do the same, with only a little concentration. Impressed with the mind’s capacity to store and retrieve memories, he also was intrigued by how the brain works – or fails to work – in learning and memory.
He hopes to conduct medical research in neurology or neurosurgery at a teaching hospital or academic medical center. Such research one day might help people who are losing their ability to recall or who have Alzheimer’s disease.
“Improving memory or helping people with normal healthy memories is not as important as helping people who have real deficits,” he says. “Things like how to get home from the supermarket or remembering the names of their children—those are the most pressing concerns for researchers.”
After completing his Fulbright scholarship, he plans to enter a combined M.D.-Ph.D. program to study learning and memory. He has applied to the UCI College of Medicine, and is considering Harvard, Yale or Johns Hopkins universities.
“I am not sure which school I will attend, but UCI, which has an excellent medical school, is a definite possibility. I had such a wonderful experience as an undergraduate at UCI that someday I might like to return to Irvine as a faculty member or medical researcher,” Fayazmanesh says.
Notwithstanding his academic success, Fayazmanesh is far from single-minded. In fact, it is a multiplicity of activities and interests that enable him to achieve: He plays clarinet well enough to perform a Mozart concerto at the 2001 Clarinet Congress at California State University, Fresno. He also plays guitar, has had his poetry published, and won a full scholarship to study jazz and poetry at a summer arts program. In his spare time, he is a black-belt martial arts instructor.
“Having a lot of interests actually is good for me. If I was only doing one thing, research, and I didn’t have music or writing or some exercise like running or tennis, I wouldn’t have as much of a life,” he says. “It adds another dimension.”