I developed a strong interest in brain studies during my sessions of play therapy for children. I noticed some kids were given Ritalin with a false Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis. Although the side effects of this drug were well established, it was still commonly used by the parents to calm down their naughty kids because the detection methods are too expensive. It raised in my mind the need to diagnose this disease with a better accuracy at a lower price. This led me to decide that the solutions are to be found by studying neuroscience.
As I recall, I was always the child who sought to every open closed door and peek inside what was behind that, curiosity and searching for answers was a second nature to me. Human brains are like those closed doors that have so much more yet to be discovered. And neuroscience will allow me to open those doors and reveal what it contained. I started university studying two subjects, medicine, and electronic engineering. It introduced me to signal-processing, Electroencephalogram (EEG) and neuroscience. Thanks to this degree, I also discovered the statistical analysis of data and programming, which have both become a great source of inspiration.
On my degree’s presentation-day, our professor addressed us as follow: “There are 20% of girls in this class, why would you steal these seats from men instead of making a family?” This sentence had a huge impact on me and I am determined to prove him wrong in order to become an example to other oppressed women of this country. This is when I made it a life goal to pursue as far as possible in my studies. The hunger to accumulate knowledge led me to enter a master program in order to pluralize my fields of expertise. After quitting my medicine studies because of non-compatibility with the practical side of it, I centered myself on particle physic keeping in mind what I learned through this joined degree could be applied to neuroscience. Which evidently, the mathematical theory from this subject played the main role later in the data analysis and computational programming later in my master thesis.
At around that time, my mother who is a psychologist had just acquired a Neurofeedback machine, which I quickly started using as an alternative to Ritalin to focus children’s attention in coordination with neurofeedback therapeutic methods. This is when I began working on EEG and defining my thesis’ topic: “Using MFDFA to improve diagnosis of ADHD in children based on EEG data”. For this project, I collaborated with a group of innovative bioinformatics students from the University of Tehran who introduced me to “Machine Learning”. This experience made me highly adaptable to multi-disciplinary teamwork and also made learning new methods from my peers a very enjoyable experience. With the collaboration of the Behju clinic research team, I then started gathering behavioral data for statistical analysis on patients from 7 to 12 years old. My past experiences helping psychology students by statistically analyzing their data with SPSS helped me a lot for this part of my thesis. Over a period of 3 months painstakingly learning coding, data analysis writing codes….
I ended up creating a new diagnosis method from these results averaging 83% (percent) accuracy with these research subjects. I feel this innovative initiative combined with existing methods brings me one step closer to achieving my commitment towards those children. I then had to present these acquired results in oral and written formats to a group of reviewers from my university and other collaborative institutes. In coordination with my supervisor, I am currently writing a scientific paper soon to be submitted about the new of ADHD diagnosis I have created. This experience in the research environment confirmed my decision to pursue my life path in this direction. As I obtained my master degree, continuing with a PhD seemed the logical next step to get the answers I am seeking. (talk about what you really want to do in PhD, computational neuroscience, what question and what problem to solve, how is that going to contribute to the society. How your previous experience is relevant. Machine learning, SVM etc)
New Zealand clean green image has always attracted me, the breathtaking nature, rugged mountain, and endless green pasture land are very often the described scenes of heaven in our Persian poetry. Combine that with a world class highly ranked institution like Auckland University and the highly reputable Centre for Brain Research made continuing my PhD at Auckland University my number one priority. I truly admire the center’s inclusive approach to solving neuro related diseases by linking up multi-disciplines experts, patients, and community into a network of experience and knowledge. Very much like the neuro-network in the brain, everyone benefits from this expansive network of knowledge with firsthand information. My ultimate goal is to bring positive impact to the society through the subject I am so passionate about and this fit right in with the Centre’s objective. Thus I am so looking forward to being able to learn and conduct research in this amazing environment.
I believe my determination, ambition, and motivation made me a strong candidate for PhD in your department. I would be pleased to contribute my skills and experiences to the already excellent team you have there.