The travel ban is why I can’t be at the ASBMB annual meeting
On Jan. 27, I was shocked to hear about the executive order that imposed a 90-day entry ban for travelers from seven countries, including Iran, into the U.S. I am Iranian. With the executive order, I had to give up my hope of attending the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology being held this month in Chicago.
I was born in Ardabil, a city in Iran. I grew up in a family that had a great respect for science and seeking new knowledge. My parents inspired me to learn and improve. My education at primary and secondary school captivated me in many ways, and I found myself very passionate about health science. Therefore, I picked the field of experimental sciences as my major in high school, and I was very eager to pursue my educational goals at one of the best universities in my country.
At university, I began working as a research assistant in order to gain experience and to expand my interests in science. My research experiences led me to participate in many national and international conferences, workshops and training programs.
As I found myself curious and passionate about molecular biology, biochemistry and cell science, I wanted to do more research. I applied to the University of Manitoba in Canada and began in a master’s program in January 2016. I chose Joseph Gordon and Saeid Ghavami as my co-supervisors, as they are world-class researchers in their respective fields of muscle development and cancer biology.
Prior to starting my master’s degree, I collaborated with Ghavami, and we published several manuscripts and a book chapter. I was involved in various projects investigating therapeutic applications targeting apoptosis, autophagy and the unfolded protein response pathway in cancers. This gave me an opportunity to develop a wide range of skills and knowledge in the field of cancer biology and therapy.
I took a keen interest in Gordon’s research program, which focuses on pediatric diseases involving muscle tissue and insulin-resistant cells. My proposed research combines Ghavami’s expertise in cancer biology with Gordon’s expertise in muscle development to study the regulation of programmed cell death in alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma for the potential of developing novel cancer therapies.
A few months ago, my co-supervisors encouraged me to submit an abstract to the 2017 ASBMB Annual Meeting. This meeting is a prestigious conference in the field of molecular biology. At this conference, I would have an enriching experience by attending biochemical and molecular biology presentations, networking with my peers and participating in career-development workshops. I was keen to learn about the latest innovations in cell science and cancer therapy. In addition, attending this conference would provide me with a great opportunity to interact with established scientists and graduate students and forge new collaborations.
After submitting my abstract, I was excited to later receive an ASBMB travel award. I felt honored to receive this support from the society.
As an international attendee to the meeting, I started preparing for my U.S. visa application, which involved traveling from Winnipeg to Vancouver to submit official documents. I was very disappointed when the executive order happened. I couldn’t complete the application; there was nothing I could do. The effort I put toward attending this conference was gone.
However, I am very thankful to both my co-supervisors, who have supported me through this process; their encouragement has helped me. I also appreciate the sympathy and positivity from my lab mates in a situation that I have no control over. I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received from my family, friends, colleagues and ordinary Canadians.
There are many students and scientists affected by this travel ban. I think it is unfair for students and young trainees who cannot attend these events. I spent months planning for this conference that would benefit my training. It is a shame that I am put in this tough circumstance that I could not have foreseen.
I am filled with regret that I can’t accept the ASBMB travel award and attend the meeting this year. However, I always will be grateful for receiving this honorable travel award, and I look forwarding to attending the meeting at a better time.
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The University of North Texas has said only that the decision followed briefings by federal and local law enforcement.