Neuropharmacology research inspires UCI’s Roudabeh Vakil Monfared along her MSP and PhD degree path

When Roudabeh Vakil Monfared immigrated from Iran to continue her education, she did not know what part of pharmaceutical sciences to pursue as a career path.

Now that Monfared has progressed through the Master of Science in Pharmacology (MSP) program at the University of California, Irvine, she said that her career goals are clearer as she aims to make an impact with breakthrough research.

“After I immigrated to the United States when I was 28 years old, I became more familiar with pharmaceutical sciences and this industry,” Monfared said. “The most appealing part for me is that it is multidisciplinary. It’s a place where chemistry, biology and even computer sciences and data sciences merge together to get results and outcomes that can be transformed toward human health.”

During her time in Iran, Monfared earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology from the University of Guilan. After arriving in California, she first worked on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and then applied for and earned a spot within the MSP program.

After starting the MSP program, Monfared started working in the lab of Amal Alachkar, PhD. With opportunities to pursue a wide range of research topics, Monfared chose an area that is close to her heart: neurodegenerative diseases.

“My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease,” she said. “So I understand how the families feel and what problems they have when taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s Disease. This was the inspiration for me to study neurodegenerative diseases. By understanding the mechanisms of the brain and choosing targets for therapeutic drugs, we can transform this knowledge to develop drugs for Alzheimer’s Disease to prevent or ameliorate them.”

When asked about Monfared’s personal and career development within the MSP program, Alachkar said: “Roudabeh has a talent for applying different pieces of knowledge and skills that she gained during her MSP study to her own research. She has always impressed me with her creative mind and ability to generate interesting hypotheses.”

When Monfared earns the MSP degree at the Commencement this June, her time at UCI will not be complete. She has applied for and earned a spot in the PhD in Pharmacological Sciences program.

“During my PhD path, I want to understand the mechanisms and pathways that are involved in Alzheimer’s Disease,” Monfared said “We are focused on cilia, an organelle on the neurons. We are going to understand the role of this organelle and other diseases like psychotic diseases or neurodegenerative diseases.”

The past two years in the MSP program have helped Monfared narrow her research focus and target a specific career path. In addition, the opportunity to conduct research with Alachkar provided an extra layer of learning.

“Whatever we learned in our MSP courses, I also did the experiments in the lab,” Monfared said. “The program provided practical learning and theory learning, which was very helpful in my case.”

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