#AmericanSTEAM - Profile of an American Scientist: Dr. Zafir Buraei

by March for Science

This is the first in a series of photographs by Parker Feierbach. Parker Feierbach's work, profiling scientists, strives to humanize the scientific enterprise through the personal stories that drive it.

Dr. Zafir Buraei, a neuroscientist from PACE University.

Dr. Zafir Buraei (right) is a neuroscientist at PACE University. He is pictured here with his partner at the Bronx Botanical Garden, 2017. This is what he has to say:

Photograph by Parker Feierbach

Photograph by Parker Feierbach

"After the Iran invasion of Kuwait we came to Serbia, and I did high school there and I did college there. In college it became very clear to me that if you want to become anybody in science you have to spend some time in the US. Everybody was talking about the US - that it’s an environment that has to be experienced if you are to advance. 
In Europe, you sort of have to wait for the professor to die or go to retirement for the next professor to come along. And in the US you really have so many professorships, so many institutes, it’s like there isn’t a cap on creativity. You have funding for research and availability of resources, and the flow of ideas. A lot of the companies here are at the leading edge of techniques to simplify routine lab work, to free your time for real discovery. When you are in Serbia, you’d order something and it would take two months to get it back. 

One time I remember we had to order some radioactivity, and Serbia was under sanctions at the time, so somebody had to smuggle the radioactivity from Macedonia and that too had to be prearranged. Here, instead of taking three days to extract DNA, a company might come up with something to do it in five minutes. So I just decided 'you know what I’m just gonna go to the US and I’m gonna get it over with.' And that's how I ended up in New Orleans. I was super welcomed there. I just felt like I belonged there, and I was very surprised. The happiest years of my adult life were in New Orleans.
If the US were to to become less forefront in science it would be a shame. We need to protect the truth. We need to protect critical thinking. We need to protect the achievements that we have obtained."

About the Author and #AmericanSTEAM

Wanting to invigorate and support US STEAM work, photographer Parker Feierbach (@ideaform) recently undertook creating a series of scientific portraits. The goal of this series is to expose the backbone of diversity in STEAM and erase the stereotyped facade of STEAM jobs. Feierbach hopes to show everyone just how normal and approachable the people in technical disciplines really are.

Diversity and Inclusion STEAM, AmericanSTEAM, science profile, scientists, meet a scientist, science photography