Nima lived most of his life in New Jersey, then in the last four years, found a home in Illinois. His parents immigrated here from Iran 23 years ago, so he also identifies that country as part of his “home ground,” which he hopes to return to in the long-term. He studied Agricultural Economics at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, earning his Bachelor’s last year. Nima says his experience with cleaning up large datasets for a former professor is pretty relevant to a lot of the repetitive but still important and attention-demanding tasks he works on at TLI. He will start a Master’s degree in Applied Economics at Cornell in the fall.
What drew you to work at TLI?
What drew me to the work here was the promise I saw in perennial grain polycultures as a way of challenging the inherently disruptive impacts of Western agriculture on natural ecosystems and the societies that depend on them.
What would people never guess that you do as part of your role at TLI?
I think people would be a little shocked to learn how interns have made Tuesday’s weekly freshweight measuring of Kernza® into a kind of Olympic sport, featuring an eager Carl with his stopwatch shouting words of encouragement over the ambiance of Disney’s “Mulan” soundtrack.
What TLI perennial crop do you look forward to eating most, and how would you prepare it?
I look forward to being able to sample perennial sorghum flatbread. I’m really interested in perennial sorghum specifically because of sorghum’s adaption to more arid climates and my hope of being able to one day be part of the group bringing it back to my native Iran, where climate change and intensive agriculture has caused water scarcity to become more of a problem.
What is your motto / favorite quote?
Among my favorite quotes is one by Islamic Socialist scholar and Iranian revolutionary, Ali Shariati, regarding his view of the transformative role of religion (and spirituality more broadly) in driving us to new realms of understanding and morality:
“Religion is the only factor which has a duty towards the universal elevation of creation, obliging humanity to progress and ascend, and just as there was some stimulant that transformed the inanimate into a plant and the plant into an animal and an animal into a human being, so to find completion, religion is also a reason for the continuation of this amazing story of creation, and it also carries the human being to the final stage which he or she must reach, allows the human spirit to fly to the highest summits of the loftiness of gnosis and humanness, and even elevates one beyond that desert and puts one above time and place…religion is a factory in which the real human being is built and we should expect nothing other than this from religion.”
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