A U of T Mississauga student who was among those on the Ukrainian International Airlines flight that crashed in Iran on Wednesday, Jan. 8, is being remembered as an accomplished young leader, mentor and friend.
Zeynab Asadi Lari, a fourth-year student pursuing an honours bachelor of science at UTM, was travelling with her brother, U of T Faculty of Medicine student Mohammad Asadi Lari.
Associate Dean, Undergraduate and Associate Professor Fiona Rawle says she can still clearly recall Zeynab walking down the steps of the lecture hall and introducing herself after her first biology class. Zeynab was full of curiosity and always asked relevant questions.
“She was a scientist from the start,” Rawle says, adding that Zeynab had plans and dreams to improve people’s lives.
A “fierce advocate” for mental health, reducing stigma, public health and global health, Rawle says when faced with a barrier, Zeynab would look for solutions, and she always followed up her ideas with action.
“She was fiercely competitive with herself but collaborative with others,” Rawle recalls, explaining Zeynab had an incredible capacity to build relationships and exhibited “tremendous leadership skills.” She could often be found mentoring others.
Rawle says she can see the impact Zeynab had on her fellow students, who have been brought together in their shared grief.
Zeynab was the founder and president of the UTM branch of STEM Fellowship, a student-run, non-profit organization that strives to engage future STEM leaders and innovators in data science and scientific communication. Her brother, Mohammad, was a co-founder and former managing director with the organization.
Dr. Sasha Noukhovitch, founder of STEM Fellowship, in a statement describes Zeynab as a “creative, hardworking, committed young leader who made invaluable contributions to STEM Fellowship.” He says she brought passion and enthusiasm that were “warmly welcomed by her community” and was a patient and encouraging mentor who was always willing to lend a hand and support those around her.
“She demonstrated a strong commitment to fostering equity in medicine and global health, increasing community involvement and tackling stigma surrounding mental health,” the statement says.
Zeynab was an active member of her community, with a strong admiration for medicine, public and global health, STEM education, mental health advocacy and humanitarianism. She served as the mental health network coordinator for the Youth Mental Health Association, a youth member at Young Canadians Roundtable on Health, and executive board member at the Iran University of Medical Sciences Medical Student Association for Cancer Research and previously interned with the Worth Health Organization.
“Their passing is an unimaginable loss for their family, friends and communities they were part of,” Noukhovitch’s statement continues. “During their lives, they touched many people with their tireless altruism and advocacy, and with their deep care for the people around them.”
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