Mohammad Hossein Asadi Lari, STEM Advocate & Research Superstar
Our October Leader in the Spotlight is Mohammad Hossein Asadi Lari, an accomplished third year student in the Honours Cellular, Anatomical, and Physiological Sciences program at UBC. Through various initiatives, Mohammad shares his passion for science and research. Mohammad is a founding member of the STEM Fellowship, a youth-run non-profit organization that aims to enhance STEM education for high school and university students. Currently, he serves as their Managing Director for Scholarly Publication and Steering Committee Member. Additionally, Mohammad serves as Chair of the Gene Researcher for a Week program, and is a member of the Canadian Red Cross National Youth Advisory Council. Mohammad has been involved in various research projects, since high school. For his work in nanotechnology, he holds a patent and has been awarded the first place poster prize in the International Young Scientists’ Conference. Previously, Mohammad won the bronze award in the International Junior Science Olympiad and the bronze award in the Iranian National Chemistry Olympiad. In our interview, Mohammad describes his journey into research and science, provides advice to aspiring researchers, and shares a critical tip for time management.
1. Tell us about your foray into nanotechnology research as a high school student.
My journey into nanotechnology research arose from a combination of interested friends and a wonderful mentor from my high school in Iran. We started out with a passion in chemistry in grade 9 and spent tens of hours in the lab wanting to fix a problem.
At the time, there were many efforts to support nanotechnology research in Iranian high schools and so we thought and used silver nanoparticles to create antibacterial banknotes. The project received awards in a number of science fairs including the first poster prize in the International Young Scientists’ Conference. We patented our invention and the manuscript was recently published (after 4 years!). This process taught me a lot about the difficulties of research, especially when resources are limited.
Over the years of working on this project with my friends, and receiving great mentorship from a chemist who not only shared his passion of chemistry, but also science and education, I have grown immensely.
2. What sorts of lessons have you learned from conducting research? What advice would you provide to aspiring researchers?
Over the last five years, I have conducted research in basic sciences (multiple chemistry-based projects and cancer immunology), clinical chart and systematic reviews (in neurosurgery) and a survey study of student journals. These experiences have taught me that every research project is different but they have some elements in common, the most important of which is: patience.
I have been reminded by my supervisors and mentors time and time again that I have to be patient with the process. I have gotten better at this o
ver time, but it can be difficult to balance one’s desire to drive a project ahead with the many hurdles along the way. This is more evident in larger research groups, where projects can depend on the work of different people with various roles.
My advice to aspiring researchers is:
1) get involved in projects that you are passionate about,
2) study the backgrounds of potential research groups to gauge and/or deepen their interest and,
3) have patience.
Research should be something that you are willing to think about all the time; you should be so engaged that you may think about your work when commuting! Don’t treat research as something that you should just have on your résumé (which goes for a lot of extracurriculars!)
3. You serve as the Managing Director for Scholarly Publication and Steering Committee Member for STEM Fellowship. What is the STEM Fellowship?
At STEM Fellowship, we are engaging a wide network of Canadian students to change educational paradigms in STEM and beyond.
Part of our educational philosophy at STEM Fellowship is to provide students with a chance to share their research through publication. To accomplish this goal, we launched our STEM Fellowship Journal (SFJ), which is the only Canadian Science Publishing journal dedicated to publishing the work of high school and undergraduate students.
Our efforts extend beyond SFJ, and we are developing scholarly writing workshops on campuses around Canada so that we can acquaint students with the basics of scholarly writing and the newest developments in the field of scholarly publishing. Additionally, my colleagues are working on providing students educational opportunities in data science, internships in labs, robust peer mentorship opportunities in STEM and launching our STEMpowerment program that is aimed at extending STEM educational opportunities to Indigenous students.
We are also actively engaging with major societies and organizations in STEM and working to bridge their work with the student community.
4. You’re extensively involved in the community and volunteer at the Royal Columbian Hospital, teach children at a community centre, serve on the Canadian Red Cross National Youth Advisory Council, chair the Canadian Gene Cure Foundation’s Ambassador Program, advise a startup and act as the treasurer of a UBC club, in addition to your school work. How are you managing your time and energy?
However cliché it may sound, I think it is key to do what you are passionate about. It is not easy to juggle so many things alongside schoolwork but it is much easier when you are doing what you like to do. When I feel like I am making a positive impact in an initiative and growing as an individual, I am willing to commit the time. That makes managing my time and energy slightly easier!
5. What has been the best experience of your undergraduate degree thus far?
Aside from my experience with STEM Fellowship, one of my most important experiences has been traveling to the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva for an internship interview. It brought global health issues to my attention. After my visit with the WHO, given my experience with youth outreach programs, I started considering a proposal to develop a WHO youth ambassador program.
This year, I am taking a Global Health course at UBC and now I am working on developing that proposal and setting up a pilot program in Canada. I recently presented the poster for the idea at the UBC Global Health Conference. This proposal to develop a program bridges course-work and extracurricular activities, which I think undergraduate education should offer more opportunities for.
Want to ask Mohammad a question about undergrad research, leadership or STEM Fellowship? Schedule a chat with him today! Mohammad is happy to provide mentorship through our free National Young Leader mentorship program.