For the Love of the Lab

Posted on January 23, 2023

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UNCG alumna Sajedeh Pourianejad, PhD ’21,  is never happier than when researching the tiniest materials.

Pourianejad—a native of Iran—is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Center for Integrated Quantum Materials. The opportunity came during her last semester at UNCG’s Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN), when Sajedeh met a Howard researcher looking for a postdoc. The two made an ideal match and soon were collaborating on a research project with Harvard.

In her research, Pourianejad works with graphene, a derivative of graphite that is a single layer of carbon atoms. It is strong, highly conductive, and operates as a sensor. The work has led to the fabrication of a device with biosensing applications which has the potential to make major contributions to medical diagnosis and treatment, pollution control, and safety control.

“It’s very exciting,” she says. “The materials we are working on are superior. The conductivity of graphene is the highest in the world. We are in a good position [to develop something major] but we have a long journey ahead. We are in the stone age of graphene,” which was only discovered in 2004.

Academic Beginnings

Since first grade in her native Iran, Pourianejad has loved school. From day one, she excelled in science and math, and loved art. In high school, her varied interests and strengths made it hard to choose an area of concentration. But although she was talented in drawing and painting, her teachers encouraged her to pursue mathematics and physics, foreseeing a promising future as a scientist.

The next step was earning a bachelor’s degree in management and applied physics at Azad University, where she discovered nanoscience as “the science of the future. All other [science] majors need it,” she says. “As a scientist, you’re missing something without it.” So she pursued a master’s in nanophysics at the University of Isfahan and then felt ready to be independent and to study abroad.

UNCG aids International Student Success 

In researching American universities, Pourianejad was especially impressed by UNCG’s range of scientific disciplines and particularly its strength in nanoscience. That mix is exactly what she was looking for and Greensboro, UNCG and the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering became her next home.

“I was very lucky,” she says. “There were students from so many different scientific backgrounds – physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, material science. I felt I could choose anything I wanted.” 

She was admitted to several departments, but entered the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, where she studied two-dimensional materials under the guidance of Dr. Tetyana Ignatova. She stayed four and a half years and earned a master’s and a doctorate. Even though she was far from her family, she never felt homesick, she says, because she made so many friends.

Research Feels like Home

Pourianejad’s current research pursuits will continue another year at Harvard’s Center for Integrated Quantum Materials in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which reminds her of her hometown in Iran.

When she finishes her postdoc, Pourianejad doesn’t know whether she’ll stay in academia or go into industry. Even though school has been her “second home” since first grade, she would like to gain industry experience. Either way, she knows what she’ll be doing: “I love research,” she says.

Story by Mary Daily for Manning Words, Inc.

Photograph courtesy of Sajedeh Pourianejad


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