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Vakhshoori Scholarship Recipients for school year 2013-2014

  • Mr. Mehrbod Khanizadeh: $10,000
    • Doctor in Religions, specializing in Zoroastrianism, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, England
  • Mr. Arash Zandian: $7,000
    • PhD of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Irvine
  • Mr. Dinsha Mistree: $5,000
    • PhD in Political Science, Princeton University, NJ
  • Mr. Bahman Zohour: $4,000
    • PhD in Chemical Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Ms. Yasaman Dmehri: $3,000
    • Medical student, University of California, Riverside
  • Ms. Simin Kiany: $3,000
    • PhD in Immunology/Cancer Biology, University of Texas at Houston / MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Ms. Elham Yazdani: $3,000
    • Ph.D. in Business Administration, the David Eccles School of Business, Utah University
  • Ms. Nousheen Bastani: $2,000
    • PhD in Sustainable Agriculture, University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Ms. Zenobia Ravji: $1,000
    • MS in Journalism, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Mehrbod KhanizadehMehrbod Khanizadeh is a PhD student specializing in Zoroastrianism at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He already has a Doctorate Degree in Veterinary Medicine specialized in Animal Pathology. For many years, Mehrbod has also been interested in exploring the ancient culture of Iran. Therefore, after Veterinary studies, He took the University Entrance Exam for Master degree and was admitted to the University of Shahid Beheshti in the field of the Ancient Culture and Languages.

Due to the threat of the extinction of Oral Zoroastrian Literature, He chose to write his thesis in Iran on the oral literature of Iranian Zoroastrians. During his research, he collected the still-living Zoroastrian undocumented traditions from the elders living in Kerman, Tehran and Yazd.

His PhD research is concerned with the most important text, the Yasna. The Yasna, with 72 chapters, constitutes one of the books of the extant Avesta. During the Sasanian era (224-651 CE), Zoroastrian priests began to translate the Avestan texts into Middle Persian. These translations included comments on the Avesta. In the manuscripts, the Middle Persian translation, together with any comments or glosses, immediately follows the Avestan phrase it translates. The Avestan original together with the translation and commentaries came to be known as abestāg ud zand ‘The Avesta and the Zand’.

The core of Mehrbod’s PhD thesis will consist of an edition of the Avestan and Pahlavi version of the Hōm Yašt, which constitutes chapters 9–11 of the Yasna. He will analyse the way in which the translation relates to the Avestan original and study the commentaries to see how the Avestan text was interpreted in the Middle Iranian period. He will also examine the way in which the Zoroastrian belief system developed from Old to Middle Iranian times. With his thesis, Mehrbod is hoping to contribute to a better understanding of the Zoroastrian and ancient Iranian traditions. He expresses his deepest appreciation to the Vakhshoori Foundation for the scholarship which assists him to achieve his educational goals.

Watch Mehrbod's video by clicking here


Arash ZandianArash Zandian was raised in Tehran, Iran. He is currently a second year Masters student in Mechanical Engineering at University of California-Irvine. The graduate program he is pursuing leads to the Doctor of Philosophy degree. He has been named the inaugural recipient of the Donald K. Edwards Endowed Fellowship in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at UCI in 2012. He did his undergraduate studies in Mechanical Engineering at University of Tehran, and graduated with a B.S. degree from this institution in 2011. The focus of his research in the past few years has been on efficiency improvement of the power generating units and development of renewable energy systems, which consequently address the air pollution and global warming issues that not only threaten our future but also jeopardize the life of all the creatures. Life is an invaluable gift God has given us, and as our religious taught emphasize, it should be praised and enjoyed by all; this creates a great duty for us to retain it for our descendants who wish to have a joyful life as we do, in the future.

Aside from attending school, Arash has been teaching high school Mathematics and Physics courses to Zoroastrian students, wishing to assist them to get admission to top universities. Meanwhile, he has been an active member of the Zoroastrian Students Organization (ZSO) for more than five years, where he took part in many activities and took responsibilities as organizer and manager in diverse social, religious and athletic events; the most important of which are: the 1st Zoroastrians’ Invention & Innovation Exposition, annual Zoroastrians’ Sports Olympics (Jam-e Janbakhtegan), Manthra Religious Competitions and Zoroastrian Teenagers Nationwide Camp. He has also been a key member in producing the 1st dubbed “Dari” film, which was released in 2011. It was a great stride in familiarizing our children with our mother tongue, and helps reinforcing the ties with their ancestors and keeps our community more united, he believes.

Arash wishes to encourage his peer Zoroastrian youngsters to be committed to their society and to try to excel the name of the Zoroastrian community in any academic, arts or sports related contest. Retaining our precious traditions and encouraging our posterities to keep this valuable treasure is the key to remaining united, and it is of prior importance for our community to thrive.

Watch Arash's video by clicking here


Dinsha MistreeDinsha Mistree is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. Prior to Princeton, he earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dinsha’s research focuses on public institutions and political economy in the developing world. Dinsha will graduate in June 2014 and he hopes to follow in the family footsteps of becoming a professor (both of his parents are also professors).

Dinsha has been involved with several Zoroastrian community projects. He recently helped launch Zoroastrian Return to Roots (http://www.zororoots.org), a program which organizes trips to India (and soon to Iran) for Zoroastrian youth. With Benafsha Shroff, he has also launched Agiary Connect (http://www.agiaryconnect.com), a website where Zoroastrians living outside of India, Pakistan, and Iran can get religious services performed at agiaries. This service enables priests to continue practicing our rituals and customs, even as many Zoroastrians continue to move abroad. Dinsha occasionally writes for FEZANA Journal and is involved in various Zoroastrian associations throughout the world. In his spare time, he is involved in entrepreneurship (he co-founded a coffee and chai company in Delhi and advises other entrepreneurs). He also enjoys playing soccer and basketball.

Watch Dinsha's video by clicking here


Bahman ZohourBahman Zohour was born and raised in Iran in a Zoroastrian family. He finished high school in Iran at Firoozbahram high school. Eight years ago, he moved to the U.S. in search of a brighter future. Despite many challenges, he immediately started working full time at Fry’s Electronics and enrolled at De Anza College, taking prerequisite courses in preparation for a four-year university. Currently he is a second year Chemical Engineering PhD student at University of California- Los Angeles (UCLA) where he received his Bachelor of Science degree with honors.

During his two years of undergraduate studies at UCLA, he maintained a high academic standing and received prestigious scholarships such as UCLA recognition Scholarship award in 2010, Lena De Groff Scholarship award in 2011, Rhone Poulence Scholarship award in 2012, and FEZANA Scholarship in 2012 and 2013. He was also invited to join many prestigious honor organizations, such as Honorsociety.org, Goldenkey, and TauBetaPi (TBP), and has actively participated in many of their outreach programs. While in senior year, he was also honored to be the recipient of the 2012-2013 Dean’s Graduate Scholar Award. This is one of the most prestigious fellowships awarded by UCLA, and is offered in recognition of exceptional qualifications to one individual pursuing graduate studies in the field.

The potential to help the society have a healthier environment motivated Bahman to be a part of his current research group at UCLA. He started working in catalysis and reaction engineering research laboratory as an undergraduate student and carried on his research through graduate studies. Utilizing chemical engineering principles, his research group is making significant advances in producing new catalytic materials, which eliminates the production of toxic and hazardous by-products in the process of direct natural gas conversion to higher hydrocarbons and liquid fuels. In the context of his research, he has published many of his findings in top scientific journals. In particular, his research studies led to an important discovery which has significant mechanistic implications, consequently, it was featured on the front cover of the October 2013 issue of ChemCatChem journal.

He is also a big fan of sports such as basketball, volleyball, and swimming. He enjoys regular workout at the gym and outdoors walk.

He is extremely passionate to inspire others to learn about science, engineering, and Zoroastrianism. Since college he has constantly participated in different teaching assistant, tutoring, and outreach programs. It is his biggest dream to become a university professor and be able to impart knowledge to many generations. Furthermore, as a young Zoroastrian he wants to be part of our community that teaches and helps our younger generation of Zoroastrians. He deeply believes in the greatness of our religion and wants it to grow larger and stronger every day. He is determined to spread the greatness of Zoroastrian religion.

Watch Bahman's video by clicking here


Yasaman DemehriYasaman Demehri  was born in Tehran, Iran, and came to the USA when she was 17 years old. Currently, she is a first year medical student at UC Riverside School of Medicine. She graduated with a Summa Cum Laude and Honors from UCLA with a Bachelor Degree in Physiological Sciences. Yasaman conducted research in both China and the USA. She was one of the 14 students to be chosen to conduct clinical research at Peking University in Beijing, China in summer of 2011. There, she worked at the cardiovascular laboratory where she performed heart dissections, heart perfusions, and analyzed the effects of various medicine on cardiomyocyte contractions. This unique experience not only taught her the synchronized skills of heart dissection and the different research techniques employed in China and the United States, but it also reassured her goal to study medicine. She is interested in the research aspect of medicine, because she knows that innovation is an essential part of science, and she intends to use it to find cures and prevent diseases along with her medical career.

She has also been involved in many community service activities and volunteering opportunities. In addition to volunteering at the Kaiser Permanente’ Hospital, she has volunteered at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center (as part of the UCLA Care Extender’s Medical Internship Program) for about three years, where she volunteered in multiple departments, such as ICU, Labor and Delivery, and Oncology. This experience taught her that medicine is more than just diagnosing and treating patients; it is about healing a human being on both physical and emotional levels.

She takes pride in being an Iranian and especially Zoroastrian. As a result of her passion and interest in her background, she established the Persian Students Society. As the president of this student organization she organized several events and cultural shows, such as Jashne Norouz and Sade, to also familiarize both non-Iranian as well as Iranian students about Zoroastrian religion and origin. Yasaman has also been involved in the Orange County Zoroastrian community by helping with cultural events such as celebrations and local talent shows. Furthermore, she is passionate in expanding her involvements as a future physician by focusing on informing and spreading health education among the Zoroastrian community. As a physician she would like to contribute back to her Zoroastrian community by continuing her involvements not only by volunteering her time, but also by providing them with useful resources and information, which would help them in making healthier decisions.

Yasaman credits her achievement to the support and encouragement of her family and her Zoroastrian community. She thanks the Vakhshoori Scholarship committee for their support in helping her achieve her goals of becoming an outstanding physician and a contributing member of the Zoroastrian community.

Watch Yasaman's video by clicking here


Simin KianySimin Kiany was born and raised in Shiraz, Iran. She received her B.S. in Medical Laboratory Technology and her M.S. in Immunology from Shiraz University of Medical Sciences. She graduated first in her class both for her B.S. and M.S. After graduation, she worked as a research assistant in a clinical microbiology research center (considered the top-ranking microbiology research center in Iran) where she was among the few to be recognized and selected for outstanding work by Shiraz University of Medical Sciences. In addition, she taught for four years as a pathobiology instructor at Technico-Vocational Junior College in Shiraz, Iran, where the students’ survey put her in the best instructor category for a few years in a row.

In August 2007 she left Iran for the United States and faced many challenges such as having a limited support-system and being in a completely new environment far from her homeland. It was then that she found a job within two months after arriving to the US as a research assistant at the Genome Technology Center at Stanford University. A year and a half later, she received admission to the University of Texas at Houston/ MD Anderson Cancer Center, the world-renowned cancer research and treatment center. Simin is currently a fourth year PhD student and for her current project she is developing a new immune therapy, which can effectively treat Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Their research group is very optimistic about transferring the new treatment in the mouse-model to clinical trials to eventually potentiate saving patients’ lives. Thus far, she has been the coauthor of sixteen published scientific articles. Findings of her studies have been included in over thirty presentations at scientific conferences.

She is motivated and dedicated to being an effective research scientist and educator, whose research and teaching in the biomedical field will make a difference in people’s lives and the future. As a member of the Zoroastrian community, she intends to be a leader and utilize her educational background to represent her community professionally. As an educated Zoroastrian, she will continually make her case and remind the new generation that one can achieve his or her goals despite challenges and upheaval battles of life. She is very thankful to the Vakhshoori Foundation for considering her as a recipient of the Vakhshoori Scholarship and to the Zoroastrian community for the steady support over all these years.

Watch Simin's video by clicking here


Elham YazdaniElham Yazdani was born in Yazd, Iran and raised in a Zoroastrian family. She received her bachelor degree in industrial engineering from Sharif University of Technology. Then, she received her MBA from Sharif University of Technology.

She has been involved in different activities in Zoroastrian society of Iran; she was the instructor of business- related workshops during the camping program held by ZSO.

Elham is PhD student in Business Administration- Marketing at University of Utah. She aims to apply the managerial concepts and design a clear map, which can guide our society to reach a better future. In her opinion, Zoroastrian youth are a rich resource of the society and one of her main concerns is finding solutions for their problems. She is also very concerned about the Zoroastrian heritage and tries to initiate a local Zoroastrian community. She hopes that continuing her studies at university of Utah will help her to be an effective member for the Zoroastrian society.

Watch Elham's video by clicking here


Nousheen BastaniNousheen Bastani was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She received her undergraduate and master's education in environmental science from the University of Toronto with high distinction. Currently, Nousheen is a first year PhD student in the Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems program at the University of British Columbia (UBC), focusing on nutrient management and water quality issues associated with agriculture. Her current research involves developing a nutrient database for the BC Ministry of Agriculture.

She believes that passion is a very important aspect of life, because when you are passionate about something, you are motivated to do your very best. At a very young age, she knew she had a passion for the environment and that she wanted to make the world a better place for today and tomorrow. She is optimistic that her PhD research experience will allow her to develop the skills to determine how to protect freshwater resources from agricultural activities in developed and developing nations. In addition to research, she has always loved teaching and community engagement. In the future, she hopes to focus her efforts on conducting research that will affect government policy.

The Mehraban Guiv Darbe Mehr in Toronto, Ontario feels like her second home. As she has grown, she decided to give back to her community as much as possible. She has helped teach children their prayers and made sure that they understood the meaning of them as well. Every Jashne Mehrgan and Jashne Sadeh, she would select meaningful gathas for children to recite in English and Farsi. She has also volunteered for the 100th Toronto Scouts Troop by attending camps and teaching the youth campfire songs, knots, etc. During the summer months, she would help organize and run summer camps for Zoroastrian children and teenagers. She thinks it is important to keep our community alive and active so generations to come can learn how special our religion is and understand the strong bond and love of the Zoroastrian community. She believes that Zoroastrian youth should try their best to get involved in their local communities as we are the leaders of our faith. As Zoroastrian texts have stated, "A thousand people cannot convince one by words to the extent that one person can convince a thousand by action."

Watch Nousheen's video by clicking here


Zenobia RavjiZenobia Ravji graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with a BA in economics, Spanish and health sciences and an MA in political science through the Civic Leadership Program. She channeled her passion for economics and politics into a position of an Associate Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, as well as, working on several political campaigns. What she discovered was that beyond her interest in economic policy, was a deep desire to educate the American population on the details of policy making and the people who frame the policies: to bring out the truth behind the faces of the government. This, in combination with her extensive international experience, her proficiency in six languages, and passion for interacting and connecting with people of different backgrounds attracts her to international business reporting and human interest stories. Zenobia makes it her purpose to deliver the truth or what she likes to call, “raw journalism.” She is currently learning from the UIUC faculty to deliver real news in the most effective and articulate way. She wants to channel her insatiable curiosity and desire for exploring the world into journalism. And most importantly, she hopes to use her skills to educate the world on the accomplished Zoroastrian community.

Watch Zenobia's video by clicking here