Class of 2022: Shayan S. Nazari

Ph.D. in Biology, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Curious, Hardworking, Grateful

Shayan S. Nazari

Name: Shayan S. Nazari
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Degree Program: Ph.D. in Biology 

Why did you choose UNC Charlotte?

I chose UNC Charlotte because it allowed me to be close to my family while pursuing a graduate degree. I also had a great experience working with the graduate school as a master’s student, before starting my PhD, and I really liked the faculty in the biology department and wanted to stay to pursue my PhD here. 

Why did you choose to pursue a doctoral degree?

It took me a few years after my baccalaureate degree to figure out what I really would like to do in the future and what truly would make me happy. After taking some cell biology courses and speaking to some professors at UNC Charlotte, I decided to do a Ph.D. because I realized we actually don’t know a lot of things in science and in biology. We are always learning something new –  whether it is a new therapeutic drug that is being discovered or a new way that a cell moves or a new understanding into a tissue’s developmental process. There is a lot that we don’t know in the scientific world and scientists around the world are trying to understand them every day. I love the possibilities that not knowing can bring. I like the world that I chose to enter that not only encourages learning but that learning every day is my full-time job. 

Who is your favorite professor and why?

I have a lot of favorite professors in the biology department at UNC Charlotte. A number of them really motivated me to go into my Ph.D. in cancer biology. Dr. Pinku Mukherjee was one of the professors that sparked an interest in me in cancer biology and really made me feel like what we were doing was important. When I took her class, “Carcinogenesis and Immunity,” I was instantly interested in everything she was teaching and all that we learned. When I joined her laboratory as a graduate student, we wrote a review paper together and from that point on, I felt very motivated to keep learning about cancer biology and start my own project.

What are your immediate plans following graduation?

I will be starting a postdoctoral position at the National Institutes of Health. 

What excites you most about your area of study?

I am excited about learning new techniques and through experimentation, understanding more about how cancer metastasizes to eventually determine therapeutic targets. 

What was your favorite or most memorable moment outside of the classroom?

My most memorable moment was during a vacation to Norway with my boyfriend to the Lofoten Islands, located in the arctic circle. It was the most picturesque place I have ever seen, nestled between the mountains and the edge of the arctic sea. We played 54 holes of golf in 24 hours at the northernmost golf course in the world. I remember being immersed in nature and the feeling of serenity while surrounded by so much beauty.  

What do you know about yourself now that you didn’t know before coming to UNC Charlotte?

I realized that through hard work and using all the resources available to me at UNC Charlotte, I was able to achieve the goals that I had set for myself. I now know that I can become a scientist who studies tumor biology and contributes to the world of cancer discovery. Standing on the other side, so close to graduation, it makes me very happy to realize how far I have come and know that this is just the beginning of my journey. 

If you could tweet something to your 12-year-old self, what would it be? (280 characters or less!)

Work hard. Learn and enjoy the process of learning. Think outside of the box and always listen to your own gut feeling and trust that it will lead you to some place that you can be proud of. 

What advice would you give to an incoming student?

There is no one way of doing things. It is ok to have to take a detour or take extra time or the unconventional route. As long as you get to where you want to go, that is all that matters in the end.

Summarize your Charlotte experience in three words.

Curious, hardworking, grateful.