The Dr. Montakhab Foundation was founded in 2019 to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Massoum Montakhab. To continue her legacy, the foundation provides financial support to help refugees studying STEM fields achieve their academic goals.
Dr. Massoum Montakhab started her century-long journey in Iran, where she married as a teenager and raised her three children. However, Dr. Montakhab's passion for knowledge and thirst for independence set her apart from most Iranian women in the early twentieth century.
At a young age, Dr. Montakhab discovered an unyielding curiosity about how the single cell resulting from a fertilized egg could lead to something as complex as human life. In her pursuit of understanding, Dr. Montakhab completed her Bachelor of Science in biology in Iran before immigrating to the United States on a full scholarship at the University of Michigan, where she earned her PhD in physiology with a focus in embryology. Upon completion of her PhD, she returned to Iran, established a university, and dedicated her life to providing others the gift of knowledge. She ultimately served as Deputy Minister of Education for Iran until the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Due to the political unrest, Dr. Montakhab was forced to flee her homeland and bring her entire family, including her grandchildren, to the United States.
Despite losing everything virtually overnight, Dr. Montakhab immediately started working in laboratories to continue decoding the mysteries of stem cells while raising her grandchildren. In 1992, she and her daughter, Dr. Nikou Hessami, established Molecular Diagnostic Services, Inc. (MDS), a biotech laboratory in San Diego. But MDS was not simply a business for Dr. Montakhab: she used her corporation to provide hands-on laboratory experience to countless university students, including her own great-grandchildren. As a result of their experiences at MDS, many of her employees continued their education and sought out doctorate degrees in science and medicine. Driven by her passion, Dr. Montakhab continued to work daily at MDS until she retired in 2014.
After Dr. Montakhab's passing on March 26, 2019, The Dr. Montakhab Foundation was established as a testament to her unwavering strength as a student, educator, scientist, and mentor. To continue her legacy, the foundation aims to provide scholarships and inspire refugees, women, and scientists alike to achieve their academic goals.