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Learning to Stand up for Science — and for myself

On February 19th, I had the great pleasure of attending a rally to Stand Up for Science organized by ClimateTruth.org and The Natural History Museum. The pro-science demonstration took place at Copley Square at the end of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Annual Meeting. Somewhere between hundreds to thousands of attendees from all walks of life came out to show their support for science done for the public good. To quote one of the speakers, Geoffrey Supran: “America runs on science.”

I was honored to be invited as one of the speakers, and so after a very long break from writing on ArtLab, I wanted to share my speech. I do this not to convince you to March for Science on April 22nd or to join the People’s Climate March on April 29th, but simply to share my story and the story of my family.

ArtLab was the beginning of my journey to find my voice, and this is how I’m using it today.

Giving my speech at the Rally to Stand Up for Science in Copley Square. Photo by Amanda Kowalski/ClimateTruth.org.


I was born into a rich tradition of science and engineering. I am the daughter of immigrants who come from a country where over 70% of science and engineering students are women.

My mother is a doctor, named one of Who’s Who Top Doctors in New York City for over 10 years running. My father is a physicist turned computer engineer, educated right here at MIT. My aunt is a software engineer. My uncle a materials scientist. My cousin, she’s a civil engineer.

They were all born in Iran. And they are all now proud American citizens who have dedicated their lives to developing innovation and infrastructure, to promoting health and safety for their fellow Americans. To making this country the great science and technology superpower that it is.

They are the American dream. And I am their American dream. The product of two cultures with a deep reverence for science.

But our right to that dream has been called into question. Our ability to do science for the benefit of our fellow Americans and for the world at large. I cannot help but realize that my brother and I would never have been born in today’s America. I would not have grown up to study biomedical research. I would not be standing in front of you today.

And neither would some of my heroes who have revolutionized science in America. Maryam Mirzakhani, the first female mathematician to win the coveted Fields Medal; Pardis Sabeti, the biologist who worked to unravel the Ebola genome during the deadly outbreak in 2014; Anoush Ansari, the engineer, entrepreneur, and the first female space tourist.

Science makes America great. And open borders that allow and encourage the free flow of diverse ideas, talents, and experiences are an integral part of that greatness. I am in awe of all of you who have turned out to defend not only a respect for science and scientific integrity, but to fight for the rights of scientists like me to continue doing our jobs.

In turn, we will continue to fight for your right Constitutional rights to health, safety, prosperity, and justice for all.


Thumbnail image by Tom Aho.