Five Minutes of Fame: Sina Rezaei
After losing his father to cancer during his freshman year of high school, biology senior Sina Rezaei was faced with an onslaught of new responsibilities and a more serious outlook on life. Rezaei overcame that painful turning point in his life and took an interest in biological research. He decided that he would focus his studies on health and disease and was one of the 61 students who received a $3,500 stipend this year to conduct undergraduate research at UH. He will present his current research, which focuses on Alzheimer’s Disease, on Oct. 9 for Undergraduate Research Day.
The Cougar: Your research is centered around Alzheimer’s disease. Can you tell us why you focused on that particular topic?
Sina Rezaei: There weren’t any personal motivations behind it. I wanted to do research in something that had clinical significance because of my interest in medicine. I had always found the brain fascinating, and Alzheimer’s disease is one of the more well-known diseases affecting the brain. This lab just felt like a great fit.
TC: What can blood vessels in someone’s brain tell us about him or her?
SR: Research has shown that changes in the blood vessels of the brain (the neurovasculature) can occur before the memory loss and behavioral changes caused by Alzheimer’s Disease kick in. It’s not yet known how big of a role changes in the neurovasculature play in creating these problems, but it makes blood vessels an interesting area of study for Alzheimer’s Disease because research in the field may lead to the discovery of new therapeutic drugs.
TC: What are you hoping to achieve with your research?
SR: What I’m working on now involves using a program called FARSIGHT, created by Dr. Roysam from the College of Engineering. FARSIGHT allows us to use an automated process to analyze the images of blood vessels I take and collect from them a large amount of numerical data. So ultimately, I want to show that FARSIGHT is a viable tool for future studies involving the neurovasculature. I will also use my results to search for measurable differences between blood vessels in healthy and Alzheimer’s Disease brains that may not be immediately noticeable to the eye.
TC: Will you continue to research this topic at a future date?
SR: I’ve been working in this lab since my sophomore year, and I plan on continuing until I graduate this year. I’d like to continue doing research in medical school, but I haven’t decided on a field. I’m interested in Alzheimer’s Disease and cancer, but I’d like to keep an open mind when looking for research to do.
TC: How has professor Jason Eriksen assisted you with your research?
SR: When I first started, Dr. Eriksen taught me the various procedures I needed to learn to be productive in the lab. During this time, I learned how to stain tissue, culture cells, take images with powerful confocal microscopes and more. Then, once I had a solid foundation, he set me up with my own projects and guided me throughout the process. I would stop by his office if I ever had questions about a certain procedure, confusing results, and things like that. What makes this process rewarding is that I have a good level of autonomy in the lab, so it feels like I’m actually doing independent research.
TC: Is there a particular professor at UH or throughout your academic career whom you’d like to commend?
SR: Honestly, it’s hard to pick just one. Dr. Eriksen has been a great mentor, but all of the Honors College professors I have had have also been fantastic. Outside of biology, Dr. Costello’s upper level art history courses were the main reason I minored in art history.
TC: What has been the best part of being a student here at UH?
SR: The students. It may be a bit of a cliché answer, but I really think it’s true. I’ve made a lot of good friends here, and the student body as a whole is just so diverse, friendly and helpful. UH wouldn’t be the same without all the great people who go here.
TC: What is your philosophy on life? Can you tell us why?
SR: I don’t think I have one yet. College has taught me that I still have a lot to learn, so maybe I can give a wiser answer somewhere down the line.
TC: What has been your favorite memory at UH so far and why?
SR: Probably our 2011 football game against Rice. Carrier returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown really set the mood. I just remember being painted up with Bleacher Creatures, standing in pouring rain, and cheering my lungs out after every touchdown. Who can forget a game where we scored 73 points against the Owls?
TC: What do you think about UH?
SR: It’s a really exciting time to be a student here. The campus looks different every year with all the construction going on, and everything seems to be improving at such a fast pace.
TC: Why did you choose biology as a major?
SR: I took AP biology in high school and really liked the course. Plus, I thought it would be helpful to go into medical school with a background in biology. Looking back, I wish I had majored in mathematical biology, mainly because I enjoyed the challenge of working through difficult math problems.
TC: Are you going to medical school and if so, where?
SR: Yes. I have interviews lined up at a few places, but acceptances don’t go out until November at earliest, so I’ll have to wait and see where I go. I definitely want to stay in Texas, though.
TC: Do you believe medical school is a good investment?
SR: Medical schools in Texas are cheap compared to elsewhere. If you play your cards right, you can graduate with much less debt than if you went to school in another state. So financially speaking, medical schools here are a great investment. Plus, medical school prepares you for what can be a very rewarding career, which is something you can’t put a price on.
TC: What do you want to do with your future?
SR: I’d like to become a doctor. I haven’t decided on a specialty, but medicine has been my goal coming into college.
TC: What school-related activities have been the most fun for you?
SR: The football games. It’s funny too, because I thought football was really boring coming into college. Something about the atmosphere at my first UH game got me hooked and I’ve been a fan ever since.
TC: What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?
SR: College is all about balance. If all you’re doing is studying, you’re doing it wrong. At the same time, you don’t want to put yourself in a difficult position by coming out of freshman year with a low GPA. The trick is to find a way to keep your grades up, try new things, meet new people and have fun, all while trying to catch a reasonable amount of sleep.
TC: If you could meet a younger version of yourself (maybe a 16- to 18-year-old you) in the future, what advice would you give yourself?
SR: I’m very happy with where I am now. Why risk messing that up by going back and giving myself potentially bad advice?