Amazing Students Profiles

Leilah Zahedi

Leilah Zahedi

Senior Leilah Zahedi’s life work will span international horizons. She plans to become a physician and would like to travel to Iran, her ancestral home, to advocate for women’s rights. As a freshman, Zahedi was invited to come to UGA as a CURO Promising Scholar. She began working with Dr. David Hurley in the College of Veterinary Medicine and has presented their research in numerous settings. She has also worked on international medical and dental service projects in Tanzania, Costa Rica and Panama. After medical school, she wants to be able to educate people about how to stay healthy and to fight common diseases. She would love to open a free pediatric clinic in a community of need.


Milton, Ga.

High School:

Milton High School

Degree objective:

B.S. in biology and B.S. in psychology

Expected graduation:

Spring 2010

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

As a senior in high school, I was chosen as a Promising Scholar for the CURO Apprenticeship Program. I was invited to attend the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Annual Symposium. After attending the symposium, I was extended an invitation to be a CURO Apprentice. I chose a research mentor in the large animal medicine facility, Dr. David Hurley. My research during the first year focused on immunological development in calves. I ran assays on the serum samples of calves who had been fed milk with colostrum, a component of breast milk in mammals that contains immunological components that the mother passes to the baby. The tests determined the levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha, an immune cytokine, which is an indicator of an individual’s inflammatory response. During that spring, I presented my findings at the annual CURO Symposium. My mentor then invited me to participate in a 14 week long intensive summer research program. Around the same time, I was admitted into the Honors program.  During the following summer I worked on developing a research procedure focusing on the inflammatory response in the hooves of horses caused by the ingestion of black walnuts. I determined how the permeability of intestinal cells changed when exposed to black walnut extract over a period of time.  I presented my preliminary findings at the end of the summer conference for the lab. During my second year as an apprentice, I continued working on the project from the summer as well as taking on the responsibility as student leader of an international medical and dental service trip to Costa Rica and Panama. At the symposium, I received the Library’s Undergraduate Research Award for a paper documenting my research project over the year. That summer I traveled to Costa Rica and Panama 17 other students from UGA to set-up field clinics in underserved areas and to give basic medical care to the people. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience and left me wanting to do more when I returned from my trip. While in Costa Rica, I received news that I had been selected as a CURO Teaching Assistant for my 3rd year. I facilitated class discussion weekly and provided guidance to the first and second year CURO Apprentices in smaller break-out groups. I worked with other Honors Students to found a student organization called UGA Without Borders, a global advocacy organization.  I also chose to lead another medical service trip for three weeks to Tanzania the following summer. I was elected secretary of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the Pre-Medical Honor Society.  I was selected to be an Honors Teaching Fellow. I helped to write the course packet for the incoming Honors freshman students and also teach the Honors 1000H introduction to Honors freshman seminar.

Current Employment:

I work in the Honors Program as a student worker. I perform administrative tasks, as well as recruiting tasks for Honors. I also work as a Regional Representative Manager for International Service Learning for Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. In this role, I am responsible for coordinating with all of the reps at the schools within those states on their recruitment efforts, planning special teams and attending conferences. ISL is the program that sent me to Costa Rica, Panama and Tanzania on my medical service trips. The job is a great way to get a hands-on feel for the recruitment and business side of an international service business.

I chose to attend UGA because…

…of the amazing opportunities the Honors Program had to offer. I was chosen as a Promising Scholar my senior year of High School and attended the CURO Symposium in April. At the symposium, I was able to experience first-hand how the Honors Program truly gives each student a smaller community for themselves while enjoying all of the opportunities a large research institution has to offer. After receiving the invitation to become a CURO Apprentice, I was sold on UGA and am so glad I chose a university which prides itself on preparing its students so completely for their journeys ahead.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

…going for an afternoon run at the intramural fields. After a long day of class or work, I need some time to decompress. Being able to take a run on a gorgeous fall or spring day through the winding trails at the IM fields is very soothing. It allows me a good work-out while I process my many thoughts and feelings from the day.

When I have free time, I like…

…going for an afternoon run at the intramural fields. After a long day of class or work, I need some time to decompress. Being able to take a run on a gorgeous fall or spring day through the winding trails at the IM fields is very soothing. It allows me a good work-out while I process my many thoughts and feelings from the day.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

…spent three weeks in the foothills of Kilimanjaro living in a convent with 20 other students. We were in Tanzania for a medical and public health trip where we worked with the Masaai population. On triage days, we walked into the community, sometimes several miles a day, with a Masaai village leader and a translator going home to home taking family history and educating them about changes they could make to improve their health that wouldn’t conflict with their cultural values. While there, I came down with malaria along with another student, and we were treated by the nuns at the convent who happened to be nurses as well. Having to tell my parents over an e-mail from Tanzania that I had malaria was just about one of the craziest things I’ve ever had to do. Thankfully, the trip leaders and wonderful nuns took great care of us, and within 3 days I was back to normal. I will never forget the kindness they showed us.

My favorite place to study is…

…the Miller Learning Center! I love having the option of sitting at a table in the open or getting a room with friends to study. I also love the fact that Jittery Joe’s is conveniently located on the 2nd floor because sometimes you just need a cup of coffee to keep you going in the middle of night while you’re trying to memorize hundreds of organic chemistry reactions.

My favorite professor is…

…Pam Kleiber and Karl Espelie have been the two most influential professors on my college career. Both of them have encouraged me to reach for my goals and never question it. I am so thankful to both of them for all they have given me and am so grateful to be able to have such an incredible relationship with the both of them.

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

…my paternal grandfather. He lived in Iran and passed away on my 16th birthday. I never got a chance to tell him how much he truly meant to me and how much I loved him. I would love to share with him all of the things I have done in his honor and to let him know that his passing inspired me to want to become a physician. He is so much a part of the person I am now, and I miss him dearly. I wish I could tell him how much I love him, and I miss the opportunity to learn from him.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

…advocate for women’s rights in Iran and elsewhere. My dad has five sisters, and I have never met any of them. Many of my aunts—and their daughters—have received terminal degrees, and together we could advance women’s rights by serving as an example for others. If I did not fear for my safety, I would go to Iran to meet my family members and together we would change the Iranian culture to empower more women. After that, we would empower women in the rest of the world.

After graduation, I plan to…

…become a physician and go to Iran. I want to be able to educate people about how to stay healthy and to fight common diseases. Adequate resources and education are two of the most important tools to solving the world’s health issues. Because of my love of children, I am fairly certain that pediatrics is the field I want to choose. In the future, I would love to open a free pediatric clinic in a community of need.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

…my very first UGA football game. I had never been to a UGA game before and had no idea what to expect. Being in the stadium with almost 93,000 other fans was an impressive and intimidating experience. The overwhelming enthusiasm and pride in the football team was more than I could comprehend at the time. After 3 years of UGA football, I completely get it now. The first game of the season always gives me chills the same way I got that very first time I attended a game my freshman year.