Calling Australia home

A love of research has kept Iranian-born
Dr Sahar Keshvari here in Brisbane.

Sahar Keshvari came to Australia in 2010, expecting to complete her master’s degree in molecular microbiology and return home to Iran.

But instead she was encouraged to undertake a PhD at the Mater Research Institute – University of Queensland (MRI-UQ).

Seven years later, her passion to find a cure for metabolic diseases continues.

“My background in Iran was working in a pathology lab,” Dr Keshvari recalls.

“Although it was a good job, I was dealing with the same number of patients, doing the exact same tests, even reporting the same results.

There was nothing exciting about it, and I realised ‘this is not me’. But research is not like that.

“The beauty of research is that it can surprise you in ways that nothing else can.”

Sahar, with husband Mehdi, in Iran.

Sahar, with husband Mehdi, in Iran.

Within months of starting her PhD, the young researcher had already authored a paper on her chosen topic – identifying and characterising receptors for the anti-diabetic hormone, adiponectin.

Dr Keshvari recently received the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Higher Degree by Research Theses. She now works at MRI-UQ as a post-doctoral researcher.

Looking back, Dr Keshvari says the workload was a challenge, but a rewarding one.

“I was working as hard as I could – sometimes from 4am to 10 or 11pm. But I was so motivated about where I was going, it was fun for me,” she says.

And despite moving more than 12,000 kilometres from her home in Tehran to Brisbane, the international student found it easy to fit in with the Australian way of life.

Sahar (centre) with husband Mehdi and mother Nazi

Sahar (centre) with husband Mehdi and mother Nazi

“Australia is really multicultural, so other than the language barrier at the beginning, I never had any problems,” she says.

Now Dr Keshvari owns a house in Wishart with her husband, and her sister and mother have also moved to Brisbane.

She is currently working on research to create a drug to repair pancreatic cells that produce insulin so they can function better to assist patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

“I love research and now I have a life here that I actually worked really hard for. I built it with my hands, so it’s too important for me to even think about leaving it.

“Maybe in a few years I might decide to go to another country and do research. But the research here is the main part of my life at the moment.”

Sahar works at the Translational Research Institute.

Sahar works at the Translational Research Institute.

This story is featured in the Summer 2017 edition of UQMedicine Magazine. View the latest edition here. Or to listen, watch, or read more stories from UQ’s Faculty of Medicine visit our content hub, MayneStream.