Nastaran Hadizadeh

Iran

Ph.D. postdoc in biophysics

My name is Nastaran Hadizadeh. I am a post doc at UC Davis doing biophysics/biochemistry research.

I was born and grew up in Iran. I came to the US at the age of 20 as a dependent of my dad who had a research position at Ohio University. I was in the third year of college doing physics in Iran, when I got admitted to the physics department at Ohio University I just continued my education there. I got my Bachelor of physics there and then I went to Northwestern University for Master’s and PhD. My thesis was in biophysics and that’s how I ended up in biochemistry for postdoctoral work.

I appreciate all the opportunities in the US, but visa-wise it’s been a big prison for me. It’s been more than 14 years that I’ve been here, and I haven’t been able to go back to see my family. I see my parents often as they have green cards, but I haven’t seen my only sister for more than 14 years and it’s all because of the visa rules. Iranians usually are not granted multiple entry visas. So, once you get here, you are basically stuck. You can leave, but every time you want to come back you have to apply for a visa again.

I was on a student visa from undergrad until the end of my PhD. Then I was lucky enough that my post doc advisor at UC Davis agreed to get me H-1B visa. If one wants to stay longer and apply for a green card, it is better to go on H-1B. Getting an academic H-1B is easier than industry H-1B so in that sense, I was okay. But the problem was not being able to leave without risking my education and my career. I am still on H-1B. It’s been four years. I applied for a green card through my parents last October and it’s been pending for more than nine months. I don’t know what’s holding it.

The new administration hasn’t made things easier. Iranians who come to US on a visa and get stuck due to a single entry visa, at least had the hope that their families were able to visit them. But now with the travel ban, they are stuck here and their families can’t come visit them either. I am lucky that my parents have green card, but if they didn’t they couldn’t get a visa to come visit me. To see your family is one of the basic human rights you have and the travel ban is taking that away from people like us.

My research is on DNA repair. The DNA (carrying the genetic material in our cells) is continuously exposed to metabolic and environmental factors that chemically damage the chromosomes. If left unrepaired they can lead to chromosomal fragmentation and genomic rearrangements, a hallmark of many cancers. The lab at UC Davis that I work in, is trying to fully understand the mechanism of DNA repair. My work is on one of the many factors involved in DNA repair, so it’s very basic research. Hopefully in future, the results may lead to the development of new cancer treatment and diagnosis methods.

I would ask people who are anti-immigration to show me the evidence that immigrants or people from the countries of the Muslim ban have been harmful to this country. Then I will be convinced. Iranians are among the most educated minorities or immigrants in the US. We do appreciate the opportunities here, but we are giving something back.

I know there should be some measures in terms of security, but there should be some consideration at least for the people who are working here and contributing to the society. It’s not fair. Even if I weren’t educated, as a human being, I think if a person has a little bit of decency they would understand how hard it is. These are normal people who have families and loved ones that they want to see. So, I would ask them as a human being to reconsider this inhumane immigration law.

Addendum:  I finally got my green card back in October and went home after almost 15 years!!!