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Scientist’s Curiosity Inspires Her Children’s Gift

Zubin Mowlavi and Paris Mowlavi Torkamani
Zubin Mowlavi and Paris Mowlavi Torkamani

It is one thing to cherish the memories of loved ones. It is another thing to keep their spirit alive by sharing their character and values with others so they can continue to impact more lives.

Simin Amindari
Simin Amindari

That is exactly what daughter Paris Mowlavi Torkamani and son Zubin Mowlavi did to honor their late mother, Simin Amindari, through the establishment of the Simin Amindari Endowed Graduate Fellowship. The fellowship honors Simin’s love of science and teaching by providing need- and merit-based awards to graduate students who display research excellence and come from non-traditional educational backgrounds or have overcome challenges in pursuing their studies.

“Our mother believed you should always learn and grow,” said Torkamani, a 2005 UCI political science graduate and San Diego attorney. Mowlavi said: “That was her core aspiration for herself and for us.” Mowlavi majored in computer engineering at UCI and graduated in 2004. He is a technology entrepreneur and musician in Corona del Mar.

Simin grew up in Urmia, Iran, amid a rural setting that sparked her interest in plants and animal science. While a University of Tehran undergraduate, she studied for a year at the University of Illinois, Champaign. After obtaining a master’s in Iran, marrying and having her children, she returned to Illinois on a fellowship and stayed there with her family. Following a divorce in her early 40s that turned her into a single parent, she earned a PhD in plant physiology.

“Obtaining that degree is not an easy feat,” Mowlavi said. “She did it without ever failing to drop us off at school, pick us up and be involved in our lives, all on a limited salary. Doing something like this requires a myopic focus on your family, without forgoing your personal growth. She made it seem simple.

When Simin decided to move to Southern California with her children, she landed a post as a postdoctoral Alzheimer’s researcher in the laboratory of Professor John Weiss with the Department of Neurology and Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the School of Medicine.

On November 4, 2003, Simin lost her life in a traffic accident at 54 years old. “It was devastating to our family and everyone else who knew her, including the laboratory team,” Torkamani said. “The people she worked with left her desk untouched for nearly a year and a bench was commissioned in her name. It was a beautiful show of love and solidarity from her colleagues.”

Torkamani and Mowlavi chose to support BioSci because of their mother’s interest in plants, animals and neurosciences. In addition to supporting students’ formal education, they hope to encourage their inquisitiveness. “For her, learning was about more than the classroom,” Torkamani said. “She believed in curiosity, open-mindedness and inclusivity.”

“Had she lived and retired, philanthropy would have given her the satisfaction that she was helping other people grow in their understanding of the world,” said Mowlavi. “We feel honored to be able to do that on her behalf and in her memory,” added Torkamani.

“The Simin Amindari Endowed Graduate Fellowship supports our extraordinary students’ dreams and potential,” said UCI BioSci Executive Director of Development Andrew DiNuzzo. “We are honored by this gift, and we express our deepest thanks to Paris Mowlavi Torkamani and Zubin Mowlavi for their generosity.”

Ensuring grad students have the funding they need to complete their education is vital for the school’s mission of transforming the world’s future for the better. The UCI Graduate Division will match new funds issued to students through graduate fellowship endowments for the next 10 years. This means your donation will go farther than ever. For more information on how to support our graduate students, please contact Andrew DiNuzzo at adinuzzo@uci.edu or 949-824-8387.


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