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Special Features

Iranian Women you Should Know: Pardis Sabeti

August 20, 2015
5 min read
Iranian Women you Should Know: Pardis Sabeti

Global and Iranian history are both closely intertwined with the lives and destinies of prominent figures. Every one of them has laid a brick on history’s wall, sometimes paying the price with their lives, men and women alike. Women have been especially influential in the past 200 years, writing much of contemporary Iranian history.

In Iran, women have increased public awareness about gender discrimination, raised the profile of and improved women’s rights, fought for literacy among women, and promoted the social status of women by counteracting religious pressures, participating in scientific projects, being involved in politics, influencing music, cinema... And so the list goes on.

This series aims to celebrate these renowned and respected Iranian women. They are women who represent the millions of women that influence their families and societies on a daily basis. Not all of the people profiled in the series are endorsed by IranWire, but their influence and impact cannot be overlooked. The articles are biographical stories that consider the lives of influential women in Iran.

IranWire readers are invited to send in suggestions for how we might expand the series. Contact IranWire via email ([email protected]), on Facebook, or by tweeting us.

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In 2015, Time Magazine listed Pardis Sabeti as a Person of the Year for her contribution toward fighting Ebola, and listed her on its 100 Most Influential People list. She graduated from Harvard Medical School with a perfect score of 100 and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) listed her as the 49th most important scientific figure in the world.

Pardis Sabeti was born in 1975 in Tehran to Nancy and Parviz Sabeti, who was a high official in Savak, the shah’s secret police. Her family escaped Iran during the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and after a short stay in Israel, settled in Florida.

Before graduating from Harvard Medical School, she received a bachelor of science in biology from MIT and a Ph.D. in evolutionary genetics from the University of Oxford in 2002.

Sabeti is the author of an algorithm that explains the role of genetics in the evolution of disease and has devised a statistical model in bioinformatics that identifies which parts of the genome have been subject to evolution.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded her a $2 million budget to research the malaria genome and she has published more than 20 research papers in top scientific publications, including Science and Nature. In 2012 she received the Smithsonian magazine's American Ingenuity Award in the Natural Sciences category and in 2015 she was the recipient of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator award.

Among other activities, Pardis Sabeti is now an associate professor at Harvard University and a senior associate member at the Broad Institute, a biomedical and genetic research institute associated with both Harvard and MIT.

Besides her scientific achievements, she is also the singer of the alternative rock band Thousand Days, which has released three albums. The fourth is on its way.

“One of the reasons that I can do many things like be a musician, a scientist, and so on is because I came from such a different culture into a new culture,” she told the US TV network PBS in an interview. “And because my parents didn't know what American culture was, they just made it whatever they thought it was supposed to be — it became very fluid. There were no boundaries as to who we were and what we could do.”

“I speak Persian at home and I'm definitely very tied to my Iranian culture, but it's really a mix because I do feel very American,” she said. “I remember when my parents would take us to Disney World and how I really loved it there, especially at Circus World. On old family videos, you can hear me speaking in Persian and then saying ‘Circus World’ a lot.”

When asked if she had a role model, she answered, “I've never liked the term ‘role model.’ I'm just me, and there are plenty of things I would change about myself because I'm definitely not perfect. I do hope people see me as who I am: an Iranian-American, a woman, a scientist, a teacher, and so on. But I don't think people should want to be like me. Something more exciting to me would be if I could help other people become who they are inside and achieve their own goals. I hope that if I'm inspirational, it's in that way.”

“I was born in Tehran, Iran. I’m very proud of my Iranian heritage,” she said in another interview. “I think most Americans don’t really have a sense of who Iranians are. They see a lot of what’s going on by the regime and the people in power and they reflect it to us, but we’re very different from that. You see Iranians in America and how creative they are and how excited they are and how much they get involved in their communities, and I think it’s a wonderful thing.”


Also in the series:

50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Jinous Nemat Mahmoudi

50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Simin Behbahani

50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Forough Farrokhzad

50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Parvin Etesami

50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Farokhru Parsa

50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Jamileh Sadeghi

50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Fatemeh Daneshvar

50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Fatemeh Moghimi

50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Googoosh

50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Sima Bina

50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Tahereh Qurratu'l-Ayn

50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Farah Pahlavi


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