When biological sciences Professor Sepehr Eskandari talks about his success, the conversation isn’t about the nearly 40 published journal articles and book chapters, the dozens of academic presentations or his $2.9 million in research grants. He talks about his former students — which graduate programs they attended, their careers and their achievements.
“I’m really proud of what my students have accomplished,” Eskandari says. “It’s really satisfying to see students who were in this lab at one point and learned a lot, who then moved on to graduate or professional programs, and now have a lot of success in what they do. It gives me pleasure to think that I played a small part in their professional development.”
Eskandari’s expertise and gift for teaching have earned him recognition as one of the top professors in the CSU. He will receive the 2011 CSUPERB Faculty Research Award, which honors a CSU professor who has demonstrated scientific achievement in the life sciences and biotechnology.
After receiving his bachelor’s (’93, chemistry) and master’s (’95, biology) degrees at Cal Poly Pomona, Eskandari attended UCLA for his doctorate in physiology and post-doctoral training. In 2000, he returned to Cal Poly Pomona as a faculty member and immediately began making an impact.
Biology senior and research assistant Rachel Sanchez describes Eskandari as an amazing teacher who guides students without micromanaging them.
“He’s very approachable and he’s very helpful whenever I have any questions,” says Sanchez, who joined the lab as a technician and was encouraged to explore research projects. “Professor Eskandari likes it when students take initiative, learn quickly and learn independently. As soon as I tried working on experiments, it wasn’t as difficult or as intimidating as it first seemed.
“This award is well deserved. He is one of the best professors here.”
In addition to the nearly $3 million in funding and extensive publishing, Eskandari has presented his research at 36 international, national and local society meetings, often with his students. Most of his research assistants have moved on to doctoral or professional programs. In 2005, Eskandari received the College of Science’s Distinguished Teaching Award, honoring his commitment to research and excellence in classroom teaching.
Biological sciences Professor Jill-Adler Moore commends his prolific research and publishing, as well as his interdisciplinary collaborations.
“Dr. Eskandari’s expertise in the areas of physiology and neuroscience is internationally and nationally recognized,” Adler-Moore writes in her nomination letter. “He continues to serve as a peer reviewer for 11 different prestigious journals in his field of expertise. Dr. Eskandari has been an invited speaker at 11 different seminar series and recently, he filed for a patent on a mutant NIS protein.” The sodium/iodide symporter, or NIS, is the protein that enables the thyroid gland to accumulate iodide, which is an essential component of thyroid hormones.
Eskandari’s research involves studying how transport proteins help regulate the concentration of the inhibitory neurotransmitter ???-aminobutyric acid (called “GABA”) in the brain. These transporters, called GABA transporters, are involved in the treatment of epileptic seizures and in the control of the devastating consequences of stroke. Eskandari’s lab, which at times has up to 13 undergraduate and master’s research students, tries to understand the GABA transporter structure and function, as well as the effect of experimental and clinical drugs on the transporters.
“We’re trying to understand in detail how the GABA transporters work as well as identify compounds for drug development,” Eskandari says. “If you understand the mechanism of transport, you can design drugs that will inhibit the transporter, which may then be of use in the treatment of epileptic seizures.”
Eskandari will be honored and present his research on Jan. 8 at the 23rd Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium, held in Orange County.