Faraz Harsini, a graduate student from Iran
Pursuing a PhD in Biomedical Sciences and a Master's in Music
During the 2016 Worldwide Showcase, Tech's annual talent show featuring performances by international students, many in the audience were mesmerized by the performance of Faraz Harsini, a graduate student from Iran who played (brilliantly) the piano, the accordion, the harmonica, and the bagpipes—all while making thought-provoking comments about the possibility of a peaceful and harmonious community of mankind. When this thoughtful young Iranian included Israelis in the love that he professed for all the peoples, nations, and cultures of the world, and then broke into a spirited rendition of Hava Nagila, the audience went wild.
When he was a young boy, Faraz, who has his M.Sc. in Biotechnology in Biomedical Sciences from TTUHSC and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences with a concentration on Cell Physiology and Molecular Biophysics, was encouraged by his mother to study music. Even though no one in his family was musical, his mother recognized his precocious musical ability and arranged for him to study piano for ten years with an accomplished music teacher in Tehran. She refused to let him quit even when the lessons got hard and practice became frustrating.
When the time came for him to enter college, his mother assumed that he would choose to study music—a very liberal-minded thought in a country where Engineering and Medicine are the most esteemed (i.e. preferred) fields of study for bright young men entering university. She was therefore surprised when he decided to major in Chemical Engineering at the University of Tehran, but he says that his decision was based upon his intense interest in chemistry and environmental issues—his thought being that this major would allow him to help the planet by focusing on such things as biofuel research.
While at the University of Tehran, he and a friend started an Environmental Society and spearheaded recycling efforts and anti-littering campaigns (a rarity in Iran, where people think nothing of littering). He also used his musical talent to play at charity events for sick children. His efforts to help sick children led him to join a group called “Clinic Clowns,” a troupe of students who would go into pediatric cancer wards to entertain and make the children laugh (modeled on the example of Patch Adams). Faraz, a classically trained musician who was head of the Music Club at the University of Tehran, says that initially he lacked the social skills to feel comfortable in this setting, but soon he found his inner clown and started to play the accordion (which he describes as being innately funny) and make the children forget their illness for a moment.
After completing his Bachelor's degree, he decided to go on to graduate school and applied to TTUHSC on the recommendation of an Iranian friend who was studying here. When he was offered generous financial support, his decision was clear. He changed his field of study from Chemical Engineering to Biomedical Sciences primarily because of his volunteer work in children's cancer wards. When he first joined the TTUHSC Cancer Center, he completed his M.Sc. under the supervision of Dr. C. Patrick Reynolds, a world-renowned cancer research specialist on childhood neuroblastoma. He then became interested in muscular dystrophy research and began his Ph.D. studies under the guidance of Dr. R. Bryan Sutton. Faraz has nothing but praise for the program and for his major professor, Dr. Sutton, adding that it was Dr. Sutton, along with Dr. Patrick McLaurin, who helped teach him how to play the bagpipes. Faraz now plays the pipes whenever the occasion allows—be it at parades, talent shows, or even funerals.
Faraz has recently been admitted to TTU's School of Music and has started an intensive course of study as he pursues a Master's in Organ Performances. With his acceptance into this program, his mother's assumption that he would one day study music at university has finally proven correct.
In addition to Biomedical Sciences and music, Faraz's passions extend in many other directions. He is a committed vegan for ethical reasons as well as environmental and health reasons, and he is also a champion of animal rights who is sickened by the abuse of livestock on factory farms. He is the Vice President of MusiCare and is involved with LGBT issues and causes at Tech. A man of strong moral convictions and palpable compassion, Faraz hopes that he will live to see the day when men and women around the globe will stop waging war and recognize that we are all fellow earthlings sharing an all-too-brief ride on this fragile, beautiful planet.
How many instruments do you play?
I play pipe organ, piano, accordion, bagpipe, harmonica, and ocarina.
Which musical instrument do you most enjoy playing?
It's very hard to say, because it depends on my mood. But organ and accordion are my favorites. Let's say accordion because it's basically a portable pipe organ that sits on your chest!
Do you have a favorite Tech Tradition?
I enjoy it a lot when carillon is played near Christmas.
What do you miss most about Iran?
My mom and some of my friends and professors.
What do you like best about living in the United States?
“Food” and “Freedom”! The US is one of the pioneer countries in modern plant-based food technologies which produce foods that no animals were harmed in producing—and they are so delicious and environmentally friendly. This has made living vegan so easy. Nowadays you can find vegan eggs, cheese, ice cream, shrimp, fish, tuna, etc.! I also enjoy the relative freedom that I have here and that I can talk openly about issues that we are facing all over the world. Including environmental issues, LGBT rights, and animal rights.