Dr. Amir Rezvani is a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Associate Director of Addiction Division at Duke University in addition to being one of the PI in the lab that I am working in this summer. One of the first things I noticed about him when I met him was his amazing sense of humor, which makes working in his lab joyful. He is definitely not the stereotypical scientist that we all imagine in our heads; one that never smiles or jokes, and is about science 24/7. In fact, he is quite the opposite. This week I decided to give him a short interview so I can learn more about him and his journey in the scientific world.
Dr. Rezvani was born in Persia (Iran) where he did his undergraduate at the prestigious University of Tehran which is the best and oldest university in the Middle East. He received his undergraduate degree in biology then got his masters in teaching biology. Although he was accepted in medical school and even put down a deposit for his tuition so that his spot could be saved, at the end he decided to go into biology instead of going to medical school. When I asked him why he chose to give up medicine to be a scientist, he replied that his high school science teacher was the main force in convincing him to pursue biology and the life sciences. That teacher had so much passion for the life sciences that became contagious that Dr. Rezvani caught it. After high school, he decided that he wanted a more science-based career so he gave up medicine to pursue something he loved more.
For graduate school, he came to the United States and landed in Missouri where he received another Master degree in Physiology. As if he didn’t have enough degrees, Amir Rezvani became Dr. Amir Rezvani, receiving a Ph.D. in Neurophysiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. He said he was drawn to neurophysiology because there was so much unknown in the field and there were great opportunities for discoveries. He was also interested in human behavior and neurophysiology encompassed that. At that time, his research looked at the effects of beta endorphins, a newly discovered endogenous peptide, on temperature regulation in rabbits. He then went to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his postdoc (which explains his loyalty to UNC). After finishing his postdoc, he was recruited as a faculty in the department of Psychiatry at UNC where he became interested in addiction to alcohol by using alcohol drinking rats and monkey. In 1999, he finally came to Duke University and began working with Dr. Edward Levin. However, his unfaltering loyalty to UNC did not change (even though he is working at Duke which is kind of like enemy territory for him).
His advice for budding scientist is to be curious as much as you can about everything and read as much as you can. Read literature and then talk to other scientists, expose yourself to other scientists by going to talks and seminars and meetings and conferences. Doing all of this will help you find what you really love and what excites you. At the end of the day, you have to love it. Because you don’t want to wake up in the morning and hate what you’re doing. Life is too short for that. And last but not least, you need to be passionate about helping other people especially for medicine but also for science. Because every addition to the human knowledge, no matter how small, can eventually help someone somewhere in the world.
As you can see, Dr. Rezvani has lived a very dynamic and science-filled life, always ready to learn more. One can learn a lot from his life and experiences. I think the thing that I learned from listening to him is to always be prepared to learn (because he wouldn’t have collected so many degrees if he didn’t like learning) and to not be afraid to go against the tide and do things that you really enjoy. This lesson not only applies to budding physician/scientists like me but also everyone in the world.