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First-Year Investigations: Justin Farshidi

Illustration by Joel Kimmel
Illustration by Joel Kimmel

Justin Farshidi
San Marino, California

Justin Farshidi openly admits he can’t envision himself in a specific career. With interests from biology to business, the incoming student is searching for his motivation.

Encouraged by his physician father, Dean, to follow fulfilling pursuits, the 18-year-old confidently entered USC Dornsife undeclared.

“I’ve been undecided since I was born,” he joked. “I want to be happy in whatever I do. When you enjoy what you do then you succeed in it, whatever it may be.”

Ready to dabble in many interests, Farshidi opted to take another look at biology; a subject he likes but wondered if he would be any good at it. The self-labeled “non-sciencey” guy decided to find out by taking Larry Swanson’s FYI seminar.

The opportunity to learn about the brain in a small class setting while building a scholarly relationship with a professor was ideal for this self-assured freshman. With a goal to get to know as many people as possible on campus, the class allows Farshidi to nurture friendships with classmates and his professor-mentor.

While admitting his major, or rather non-major, causes him some anxiety, he’s learning that being in academic limbo has its advantages.

“It can be nerve-racking,” Farshidi said. “On the other hand being undecided means you’re not choosing one certain path. You’re looking to explore and do many things and not just learn one field.”

So far, Farshidi is delighted to find he’s good at science. He’s comforted by the fact that he can knock on Swanson’s door when he has questions. He is eager to learn more about campus organizations committed to giving back to the community and chatting with FYI peer mentors who have spent time abroad.

At the semester’s end, Farshidi expects to not only have found his place on campus, but more importantly, have a clearer vision of where he sees himself in the future. The course is helping him narrow down his major.

“FYI is a class where I am meeting new people, including a professor, and getting familiar with campus,” Farshidi said. “This class may change my current interest and influence my path of study.”

FYI Class: Thinking About the Brain

“This innovative FYI seminar examines how people have thought about brain function through the years. We begin with the ancient Egyptians and Greeks and end with recent studies that allow functional imaging of the living human brain.”

- Larry Swanson, Milo Don and Lucille Appleman Professor of Biological Sciences and professor of biological sciences, neurology and psychology

Students investigate a range of theories about brain structure and function both inside and outside the classroom. They critically evaluate current trends in the brain sciences such as brain scans of people who are thinking and dreaming. Students in this FYI class brainstorm ideas that could lead to future revolutions in neuroscience.

Read more articles from Dornsife Life magazine's Fall 2011/Winter 2012 issue