Amazing Students Profiles

Niaz Bakhtyar

Niaz Bakhtyar

It wasn’t so much that senior Niaz Bakhtyar found food science. It was more like food science found him. Bakhtyar was talking with food science professor Robert Shewfelt at a coffee shop near his home and after a short conversation, he decided this would be his future. A student of Afghan heritage, Bakhtyar has studied abroad in Morocco and Cortona. He also did an internship in Udine, Italy, where he studied the science of winemaking and studied the acid and sugar content of dessert wines in the region. He is a founding member of the Persian Student Union and recipient of numerous scholarships. After graduation, he plans to get a M.B.A. and work in the food industry, and maybe move back to Afghanistan.


Lawrenceville, Ga

High School:

Central Gwinnett High School

Degree objective:

B.S.A. in food science with a certificate in international agriculture

Expected graduation:

December 2008

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

I’ve received the following scholarships as an undergraduate: Mercedes-Benz, Coca Cola/McDonalds, Murphy, John Ayres and Cordelia Ellis. I was also awarded a FIPSE grant for my studies in Udine, Italy. I also completed two study abroad programs through UGA: In the summer of 2007, I participated in the UGA-Morocco program, and in the summer of 2008, I participated in the UGA-Cortona program. In Morocco, I studied Islam and modern Moroccan-Arabic. In the Cortona program, I studied the science of winemaking and visited local wineries to examine processing of different wine types. After completing the Cortona program, I traveled to Udine, Italy, in June and July of 2008 to complete an internship at the University of Udine. There, I performed a gas chromatography project to assess sugar and acid content of dessert wines specific to the Friuli region. As part of my stay, I also took an intensive Italian language course to help my communication skills with fellow lab partners. On campus, I was one of the founding members and inaugural president of the Persian Student Union in the spring of 2006. I have held office since 2006 and been involved in activities including World Fest at Tate, the International Street Festival in downtown Athens, Tea at Tate and the Persian Film Festival.

Current Employment:

I work for Old Navy, which is part of GAP, Inc. I have been employed with this company since May of 2003 and serve as a customer service representative. This experience has led me to become a better leader, taught me to work to resolve problems in a team quickly and to balance work, school and friends and family.

I chose to attend UGA because…

…of the rich culture and heritage that makes the University of Georgia one of the best public universities in the nation! From the Saturdays between the hedges to the lecture rooms in the science buildings on Cedar Street, UGA’s focus on student growth, intercultural programs and vast areas of study make it a great place for the college experience no matter what part of the country you are coming from.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

…jogging through the trails at Lake Harrick, swimming at the Ramsey Center, dining at East Campus Village and partaking in student activities with International Student Life at UGA. One of the fabulous amenities that UGA offers is wireless access all over campus—which is a huge plus if you are moving about all day.

When I have free time, I like…

…to have lunch in downtown Athens, to read up on current world news, to enjoy time with close friends, and of course, to squeeze in a power nap whenever I can.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

…trek the Sahara Desert on camel in the summer of 2007 with my study abroad group in the UGA Morocco program. As part of this program, we were able to enjoy one full day in the desert where we took a two-hour camel ride to our tent destination. We were greeted by a group of Moroccans who prepared traditional Moroccan dishes for us and shared live storytelling, folklore and music by the campfire.

My favorite place to study is…

…a coffee shop. I enjoy the downtown Starbucks and Jittery Joe’s the most. These places are ideal because they allow me just enough noise where I feel as though I am not being secluded from the world. In addition, the smell of fresh coffee and espresso provides a soothing smell that can’t be beaten.

My favorite professor is…

…Robert Shewfelt. He taught my introduction to Food Science class and also Food Processing. Dr. Shewfelt, without a doubt in my mind, has been the most influential person in my college career. He originally pulled me over to Food Science in my freshman year on a rainy day at a local Starbucks back home in Lawrenceville. After his short lecture on what food science offers UGA students, I knew exactly what my life had in store for me, and I’ve never looked back!

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

…former Afghan monarch Zahir Shah, who presided over the country from 1933 to 1973 in which the country made large strides toward stability and to become recognized by the League of Nations. Under his leadership, relations improved with neighboring Islamic states. He instituted programs of political and economic modernization and ushered in a democratic legislature. He had living been in exile in France for 29 years—until 2002—after he was overthrown by his cousin. During an afternoon with the “father” of the nation of Afghanistan, I’d envision the prosperous days of the country through his eyes. I would ask him what he did during his exile in France, how he found the motivation to come back to his country, and what he would suggest for the new generation of Afghan students.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

…bring peace and an end to hunger and poverty in Afghanistan. My home country has been a country of misfortune for the last 30 years. If I knew I could not fail, I would be the first person to lead a reform that would bring back my country to life and end the current impoverishment of many Afghan civilians. In fact, if I could not fail, I would institute my plan worldwide.

After graduation, I plan to…

…work in the food industry and eventually get an M.B.A. to get a balance between the business and science side of what food science can offer as a career. Having an equilibrium will allow me to balance customer and corporate needs. One day, I will go back home to Afghanistan to help the rebirth of thriving agriculture in Afghan rural sectors.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

…my days in university housing. At UGA, it is mandatory for incoming freshmen to live in residence halls. Originally, I thought that was a horrible idea, but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I met many students and built everlasting friendships. I matured, learned productive ways to complete tasks and goals and rejoiced in the experience of college life. UGA is a lively place and there is always something to do, especially when you live right on campus!