A Q&A with Chemistry and Biochemistry Doctoral Student Mahsa Lotfi Marchoubeh
Mahsa Lotfi Marchoubeh
Ph.D. Candidate in Analytical Chemistry,
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
In this conversation, Marchoubeh shares her exciting research that could have implications for Parkinson’s and other neurological disease treatment, her love of Fayetteville and making new friends from around the world, and how one of her classes even taught her how to weld.
Q: Tell us a little about your academic passions, research and/or what you’re studying within the college. What excites you about this?
I am an analytical chemist and what I do is identify and measure chemicals in different environments. For my Ph.D. project, I have been working on differentiation and measurement of three major chemicals in the brain: dopamine, noradrenaline and adrenalin.
These molecules have very similar structures and therefore it has been a challenge to differentiate them. They play very important roles in our bodies such as regulating our mood, memory and sleep, as well as vigilance and our response to fear and exercise. Imbalances in these chemicals can lead to disorders such as depression, Parkinson’s disease and are known to play a significant role in substance abuse-related issues.
To make these measurements in real time as the chemicals are being released, we have designed and fabricated a neural probe that is as thin as a strand of hair and has nine electrodes on it. Making this probe requires state-of-the-art fabrication techniques.
When my adviser and I discussed this topic for my research in my first semester, I knew then that this was the right project for me. I have a personal connection and passion for neurological disorders and have seen people around me struggling with overcoming these issues.
I hope that my research could bring us a step closer to understanding some neurological disorders. The brain is truly the last frontier in the human body and knowing that I am a part of the brain research community gets me excited and motivated.
Q: How long have you been at Fulbright College? What have you enjoyed most about your time here?
I have been at the college for more than three years now, and I have enjoyed so much during my time here.
I am very thankful for the research opportunities and the places I have had the chance to visit. But the single thing I have enjoyed the most is the people.
I have made wonderful friends from around the world, the staff and professors are very nice and helpful, and I love the people of Fayetteville. They have been kind, open-hearted and helpful to me to an extent I cannot put into words.
Q: What has your favorite class been so far and why?
I really don’t think there was a class that I did not enjoy. I took many classes in chemistry, but I think my favorite class was a shop class where I learned how to weld, make my own glassware, shape metal pieces and make circuits. It was an amazing hands-on class.
Q: What advice would you give to new students about to join the college?
Make sure school work doesn’t become all you do. Don’t let it consume and define you. Make education your priority, but make sure you get to do something else on the side as well.
I really suggest that you should set aside a few hours a day to do something other than study, something like working out, going on a walk with a friend, exploring the beautiful NWA region or best of all, making friends.
I advise that you find as many diverse friends as you can. Don’t stick to your kind. The city of Fayetteville, and especially the U of A, are wonderfully diverse places. Make sure you expand your horizons by interacting and learning from different cultures.
The university has many international events during the school year, attend them and observe cultural events, eat exotic food and make foreign friends.
Q: What do you like to do during your time outside of the university?
I read a lot. I love social novels. I also go out as much as I can. I have walked all the trails in Fayetteville and enjoy biking around the lake with my friends.
Q: When do you anticipate graduating, and what’s up next on the horizon for you?
I hope to graduate by Fall 2020. I am a people’s person, and in my heart of hearts, I am a teacher and a communicator.
I would love to get a job as a professor where I could get students excited about science. But I will also be happy in the industry if I know the project is worthwhile and does make a difference in the lives of people.
I honestly don’t have a set plan for the future. I need to get closer to graduation and see what might the best path forward be.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add or let readers know?
I would like to thank many people who have helped me, taught me lessons in life and stood by my side through good times and bad times during my time here.
Dr. Ingrid Fritsch, my wonder-woman adviser, and Dr. Kumar, the best teacher I have ever seen, my friends and especially Mamello and Isabell who are sisters to me, and the Fulbright College for giving me such a great opportunity and making me love every day I spend at the university.