"I was named after my great-grandmother, Robab. Rob..."

University of Virginia

What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?

0 - 300 words

(University of Virginia)

I was named after my great-grandmother, Robab. Robab was an exceptionally poised Persian woman, one who defied the traditions imposed on her sex by obtaining an education. She taught herself how to read, eventually graduating with a high-school diploma-- something unheard of for her time.

As a young girl, I was moved by her desire to learn. But her death from lung cancer deeply saddened me. Had she received an inexpensive form of cancer therapy, would she still be alive? Equipped with my lab notebook and ScienceDirect, I began to diagram the chemical romance between pHEMA-VP nanoparticles and cancer drugs. Suddenly, towering amounts of research on aspirin as a potential cancer therapy landed upon my desk, drowning at the mercy of my neon highlighter. I let my imagination run wild and untamed, ready to invent a therapy that could prevent deaths worldwide.

I figured that developing aspirin-loaded pHEMA-VP hydrogel nanoparticles as a novel cancer therapeutic would be uncomplicated research. While trying to create my nanoparticles, however, my visions were not as romantic. Obstacles came by the minute. Because there were few publications on my area of research, I had to invent my own polymerization methods, most of which failed miserably. When I began internationally collaborating with two Singaporean research partners, I felt they were outperforming me in my own research. Finally, after months of destroyed flasks and hair-pulling despair, our nanoparticles were successfully created. They cost $8.60/gram. Doxil, a famous cancer-therapy nanoparticle alternative, costs $246.80/milligram.

Though the obstacles were immensely challenging, my research has allowed me to experience a spiritual transformation. Like Robab, I no longer relinquish in the face of failures. For it is failure which renders growth and success. Instead, I wholeheartedly embrace the paradigm of obstacles, transcending with knowledge, with courage, with power.

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