UC Irvine provides a number of opportunities that cater to student interests, ranging from research studies to creative projects and unique performances. One student who took advantage of these options and found his special niche at UC Irvine is second-year anthropology major Matine Azadian. At just 19, Azadian is an active member in the research community, having researched topics such as anti-HIV drug development. This work contributed to Azadian’s recent honor of becoming one of the youngest individuals to ever be named a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Endowed Research Executive. While this is a very prestigious title, you’d never know solely by talking to Azadian — he is just a humble, Lil Wayne-loving student who dedicated himself to his studies and proved the power of hard work.
Azadian is a non-traditional anthropology major, as he studies this field with a pre-medical perspective.
“I get the best of two worlds, in that I get a socio-cultural and global perspective of a disease, yet also a biological and basic sciences perspective,” he said.
Growing up locally in Anaheim Hills, Azadian’s interest in medical anthropology developed in high school after he took an HIV/AIDS anthropology class at a community college. Additionally, Azadian was inspired by different professors on campus who have blended the two fields together, which also helped influence his career path. He hopes to complete a joint MD/PhD program in medical anthropology after UC Irvine in order to prepare him for a career in academic medicine. Azadian wants to teach, inspire others, treat patients and conduct lab research at the same time.
Azadian’s current schedule is reflective of his ambitious career path and all of the planning required to meet these goals. He takes 21-24 units per quarter, spends about 20 hours per week in a research lab, works at his job in
Student Affairs and finds time to study in between. Although Azadian’s life doesn’t really allow for a lot of down time and he joked that this newspaper interview was probably the most socialization he’d have all week, he does take time to enjoy his hobbies and interests.
He has a strong affinity for the artist Lil Wayne, having been a loyal fan for the past two years. His desk area is completely covered with Lil Wayne pictures, as well as two tiny pictures of Kendrick Lamar and Drake. He is a fan of the latter two artists, but no one ranks quite as high as Lil Wayne in his book.
“Lil Wayne is definitely my favorite thing, person and object in the whole world. I just love his music, I love him as a person, he’s funny, I went to a concert…so if I’m not in the lab, I’m probably fanboying over Lil Wayne,” he said.
Azadian said that he likes Lil Wayne for his good values that are buried beneath his bad habits, and because of his hard work and success. Those two traits are also shared by Azadian, who has maintained a 4.0 GPA and written a research paper that helped him win the Bill & Melinda Gates fellowship.
The paper, titled “Beyond the Microscope: An Anthropological Analysis of the Prototypical HIV/AIDS Medical Laboratory System,” looks at the HIV lab setting and acknowledges the limitations in how research is conducted. He compares limitations contained by biotechnology and ethics for example, to the confinements present within the global implications of AIDS.
This paper influenced his selection for the award and is currently under review for publication by the Journal of Undergraduate Anthropology at SUNY and the Undergraduate Journal of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Toronto. Azadian recognizes that he wouldn’t have been able to fulfill these accomplishments if it wasn’t for the support of faculty and administration here at UC Irvine.
“I would like to thank Dr. Drake, for wholeheartedly taking time out of his overwhelming schedule to influence, support, and guide my interests in medicine,” Azadian said. “And Dr. Parham, for not only supporting me in times of adversity, but for being a stellar role-model that I constantly look up to.”
Regardless of his accomplishments, Azadian doesn’t want to separate himself from his classmates and wants people to know that these types of opportunities are available for everyone.
With his undergraduate career only half-way complete and several more years of school to go after that, Azadian still has many more years until he’s able to fully practice his dreams. But he keeps moving forward with determination, no matter what crosses his path, for in the wise words of Lil Wayne: “Even when I’m on my back, I’m never backin’ down.”