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Class of 2026
Performance and Communication Arts
Public Health
Maryam (Sofia) Zareizadeh '26 from Fasa, Iran. While she has not officially declared her major, she has to double major in Neuroscience and Performance and Communication Arts, following the pre-med track.
Summer 2023

While exploring my interests in college, I became intrigued by public health and the potential it held as a career path. Curious to learn more, I began actively searching for opportunities in this field, and that's when I stumbled upon an incredible internship opportunity With UNICEF for the summer. 

From June 24th to July 14th, 2023, I was fortunate to participate in a three-week service research internship in Geneva, Switzerland. This internship allowed me to contribute to research while providing volunteer service to the local UNICEF sector in Geneva. Service research is a dynamic approach that combines the rigor of research with the compassion of service. During this summer, I had the privilege of contributing to a research project focused on understanding the link between the gut microbiome and autism spectrum disorder. In parallel with our research, I was actively involved in a project with a broader societal impact. The project's goal was to engage payment service providers (PSPs) in embracing the potential of digital and mobile payments, recognizing their significance in today's digital era. This collaboration, which included industry leaders such as Alipay, sought to create a well-informed pitch that aligned with UNICEF's objectives, emphasizing mutual benefits and returns on investment for PSPs.

Research links gut microbiome to ASD, with gut bacteria influencing brain function. Probiotics stand out as the most effective treatment, improving gastrointestinal and behavioral symptoms. Nutrition changes show promise but can be hindered by dietary preferences. Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is the least effective due to limitations.

Future research is needed to explore more treatment options and implementation strategies, involving perspectives from individuals with ASD and medical professionals. This study also suggests investigating gut-brain links in other neurological disorders like schizophrenia for potential medical advancements.

During our program, we identified potential payment service providers (PPSP) for UNICEF's collaboration in India and gulf countries (Iraq, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman). We presented these prospects to UNICEF's fundraising head and board members as our internship concluded.