Goli Yamini, a Ph.D. candidate in biology, was recently selected to receive an American Association of University Women (AAUW) American Dissertation Fellowship for the 2017-2018 academic year. The dissertation fellowship is awarded annually to women in all scholarly fields who are completing doctoral dissertations.
As a fellow, Yamini will receive $20,000 in funding as she works to complete her dissertation examining the anthrax toxin and its characteristics while designing and developing antitoxins for comprehensive treatment of anthrax. Yamini’s research, which combines biology and physics, is focused on understanding the kinetic behavior of toxin channels as well as toxin-blocker interactions on a single-molecule level. She hopes her findings will one day lead to improved antibiotics, antitoxins, and vaccines that can fight anthrax and other similar pathogens.
Yamini said she feels honored and blessed to receive the AAUW fellowship, in particular, because of the organization’s mission of empowering women through education. Growing up in an Iranian family, Yamini attended both middle school and high school in Tehran, at times living in a bomb shelter due to Iraqi missile strikes. Though she worked hard to earn good grades, Yamini remembers being treated differently in school because of her gender.
“It bothered me that girls had to sit in the back of the class, and that we were not supposed to talk to guys or collaborate with them in public,” Yamini said. “There are all these brilliant women in Iran and they’re doing brilliant work. It’s just not fair for any girl or woman to be told that what she thinks might have a different value than what a man thinks.”
Since coming to the United States in 1999, Yamini has earned her bachelor’s in computer science and biology from George Washington University, and a master’s in Biotechnology from John Hopkins University. For three years, she participated in neurogenetic research at the National Institute of Health.
After completing her doctorate, Yamini hopes to remain in academics. She said she feels fulfilled when she is sharing her love of biology with her students. Because of her own life experiences in Iran, she also is passionate about supporting and mentoring other young women in their educational pursuits.
“For me, women’s education is a big deal,” she said. “I think the road to equality is through education.”