Aboozar Monavarfeshani, a graduate student at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute with the Department of Biological Sciences in Virginia Tech’s College of Science, received a Trainee Professional Development Award from the Society for Neuroscience.

The award promotes the advancement of career training for neuroscientists and includes registration for the recipient to attend the society’s annual meeting. With more than 38,000 members in more than 90 countries, the Society for Neuroscience is the world’s largest organization of people striving to understand the brain and nervous system.

This year’s meeting was held in Washington, D.C. Monavarfeshani presented on the research he conducts in the laboratory of Michael Fox, an associate professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

“It was an honor to be selected, and to be able to share my work with fellow neuroscientists,” said Monavarfeshani, who is originally from Tehran, Iran. He earned his master’s degree in cellular and molecular biology from University of Tehran.

In Fox’s lab, Monavarfeshani studies the development of the visual system in health and in disease. The goal is to understand the mechanisms underlying how connections develop and how those mechanisms may be altered to rescue or entirely prevent degeneration caused by disease.

Monavarfeshani, who is scheduled to defend his doctoral dissertation in December, identified a cue to be important for the development of a particular synapse in the visual system, which was studied by Fox’s lab in 2015.

“These finding enabled us, for the first time, to investigate whether these complex synaptic structures play any roles in visual behavior of mice,” Monavarfeshani said. “These complex synaptic structures were known to the field for decades but no one knows what their function is or how they develop.”

Fox, who also directs the VTCRI Developmental Translational Neurobiology Center, spoke highly of Monavarfeshani’s work and his character.

“Out of all the students I have worked with, Monavarfeshani stands out for his determination to become a principal investigator with his own lab and research program,” Fox said.

Fox is also an associate professor of biological sciences in Virginia Tech’s College of Science.

“This award recognizes his research successes,” Fox said. “It’s great when a hard-working student is recognized for their success by an international society.”

Michael Friedlander, the executive director of VTCRI and Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology, had the opportunity to visit Monavarfeshani’s poster presentation at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting.

“Aboozar did a tremendous job of explaining the significance of his findings with clarity, enthusiasm, and deep insight to many of the neuroscientists who visited his poster,” Friedlander said. “He brings honor to Virginia Tech, the VTCRI, and all of our graduate students.”

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