What do you do?
As a university professor, I have two main tasks: I teach and I do research.
I teach graduate and undergraduate students who will become Speech and Language Pathology clinicians (SLPs).
I do research to better understand how the bilingual brain works, how the brain learns a new language as an adult, how the brain recovers when it has been injured and how to prevent aging related brain decline and brain disorders related to language and cognition.
Why did you choose this field?
I was born and raised in Tehran. So my mother tongue is Persian. When I was 12-13 we lived in Kent, England for over a year and that’s when I learnt English. When I graduated high School, I started teaching English as a second language (ESL) to adults at a language school. For my undergraduate, I studied Biology. I knew I liked to learn more about living systems, but I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to study. My father, who was a Professor of Microbiology, suggested that I studied Biology. He called it the mother of Sciences and he argued that Biology would give me the opportunity to specialize in many fields, once I figure out what I wanted to do. I was in my last year of undergraduate program, and nothing had interested me much. Until finally, in the last semester, I had a course on Neuroscience. I loved it. I was fascinated by the brain, and how it functions. During a session, my professor mentioned briefly that processing a second language is different from processing the mother tongue. Being an ESL teacher at the time, I was inspired to learn more on this. In Iran, there were no graduate programs focusing on Neuroscience/Neuropsychology of language learning at the time (we are talking about almost 20 years ago, and a lot has changed since then). So I decided to move to Canada for my graduate studies. That’s how I enrolled in a PhD program (masters/PhD together), in Neuropsychology and focused on a project that used Neuroimaging (fMRI) to see how the brain learns a second language as an adult.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I have generally a mind that doesn’t think anything is impossible. I believe anything is possible if you really want it and work hard for it.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love research, and I Iove learning more about the brain! STEM gives me both!
Best advice for next generation?
Believe in your abilities. Believe in yourself. Believe in your strengths. Sky is the limit. You can go far, only if you want to! Nothing’s stopping you but you! Your fears and your doubts!
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
I have three degrees in three languages (Persian, French, and English). I teach in English which is my second language.