USC Dornsife junior wins sought-after Goldwater scholarship > News > USC Dornsife


Ammar Dharani, a neuroscience major, sees his work as being at the crossroads of several areas that can advance medicine.

Ammar Dharani studies brain changes following traumatic brain injury as part of his undergraduate research. (Photo: Courtesy of Ammar Dharani.)

Neuroscience sits at the intersection of a variety of different fields, including biology, psychology, philosophy, and even history, and the study of brain function is useful as a context for understanding many larger issues. vast areas of medicine and society, says Ammar Dharani, a neuroscience major at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Dharani recently received a scholarship from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

“Neuroscience could be used to address fundamental philosophical questions and societal issues involving free will, altruism and political polarization, says Dharani, a junior who is also pursuing a history minor. In his second year, Dharani added a minor in history to his studies because, he says, it helped his scientific research, allowing him to “imagine other ways people have understood the world.”

Dharani, a native of Lewisville, Texas, says he came to USC Dornsife knowing he wanted to work in a lab, but found that keeping an open mind to different career paths helped him explore areas he might not otherwise have considered.

“I strongly recommend that every undergraduate student interested in research communicate constantly with their principal investigators and other members of the lab. It’s incredibly helpful and will prepare you to apply for scholarships like the Goldwater, where you have to explain your research to someone who may not have knowledge in your field,” he says.

Dharini’s research at USC Dornsife aims to track structural and connectivity changes following traumatic brain injury and how these alterations can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

“What interests me most is mapping the biological bases of complex behaviors and how they can be altered in neuropsychological disorders,” he says.

Apart from his research and his lessons, Dharani is a guide for the hiking club Summits and teachers and a member of the Novus Think Tank, an organization that uses neuroscience research to promote social change both on the USC campus and in the Los Angeles community.

Dharani says he doesn’t know if he wants to practice medicine, conduct neuroscience research, or do both. He is now looking into the physician-researcher (MD-PhD) track, as it would allow him to both solve problems through lab work and use that research to treat patients. He would also like to thank all his past and present mentors, teachers and professors for guiding him on his academic journey, especially Andrei Irimia, Assistant Professor of Gerontology, Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontologyand Robert Liu of Emory University.

“All these great people challenged me while giving me the freedom to develop my own research questions based on what interests me,” he says.

About the scholarship

The United States Congress established the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Foundation for Excellence in Education in 1986 as a living memorial to Senator Barry Goldwater just before his retirement from the United States Senate.

Goldwater Scholars receive help with their application from experts from USC Academic Honors and Scholarships. The office helps USC students earn competitive scholarships and other prestigious honors, providing counseling, essay reviews, and mock interviews to help them prepare for national competitions.


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