Simin Amini (PhD Student)

Simin Amini earned her MA from University of London's SOAS, where she wrote her thesis on ancient Iranian apotropaic amulets and Zoroastrian demonology. Simin has worked at the British Museum on their collections of related material amulets and metalwork. For her Ph.D. research she is investigating the magical practice and visuality and materiality of evil in the ancient Iranian world. Based in Art History/Visual Studies, Simin is an Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Graduate Fellow in Ancient Iranian Studies.


Arnold Alahverdian (Ph.D. Candidate)

Arnold Alahverdian's dissertation deals with the fifth-century Sasanian world. In it he contextualizes a fifth-century revolt in the Caucasus within broader developments in the Sasanian world (invasions, socio-political developments, ideological developments), focusing mostly on Sasanian-Armenian relations. He works on mostly Armenian, Syriac, and Middle Persian sources, especially literature dealing with the reigns and "persecutions" of Peroz I and Yazdgerd II. A segment of his dissertation also studies a narrative of sanctified warfare (especially its gendered rhetoric) within broader late antique developments (this includes elements from the Iranian epic tradition). Areas of Interest: Late Antique history, Sasanian History, Armenian History, Iranian Epic Tradition, Religion, identity, and violence in late antiquity, World History, Near Eastern / Middle Eastern History.


Amirali Ardekanian (Ph.D. Student)

Amirali Ardekanian earned his B.A. in Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles. His research Interests focus on the history of photography in Iran and the use and reception of ancient Iran in the construction of national identities in the 19th and 20th centuries. A student in Art History and the PhD Program in Visual Studies, he is an Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Graduate Fellow in Persian/Iranian Studies.


Agnik Bhattacarya (Ph.D. Student)

Agnik Bhattacarya (BA, Sanskrit University; MA, Presidency University, Kolkata). Agnik Battacharya's research focuses on the role of archaeology in the construction of nationhood in early modern and modern Afghanistan (18th to 20th centuries). His research interests also include the visual and spatial politics of the formation of the Kushan Empire, which encompassed eastern Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Gandhara. A student in n Art History and the PhD Program in Visual Studies, he is an Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Graduate Fellow in Ancient Iranian Studies.


Ileana de Giuseppe (Ph.D. Candidate)

Ileana de Giuseppe received her B.A. (Summa cum laude) in Cultural Heritage from Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna (Ravenna) and M.A. (Summa cum laude) in History, Preservation and Enhancement of the Artistic and Archaeological Heritage and Landscape, with a specialization in Archaeology). Ileana has excavated for several seasons at Persepolis with the Italian-Iranian project at Tol-e Ajori as well as numerous sites throughout the Mediterranean and has worked as a curatorial intern at the Smithsonian's Museum of Asian Art. Her dissertation "The Practice of Everyday Life in Hellenistic Asia" is an archaeology 'from the ground up' that focuses on problems of the materiality, visuality and practices of transculturation in changing identities across the lands of the former Achaemenid after Alexander. 


Melissa DePierro (Ph.D. Student)

Melissa DePierro earned her BA (with distinction) in Art History and Classical Archaeology, from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and her MA in Art History from the University of Georgia. She has excavated at sites in the Levant. Her research interests include cross-cultural interactions between the Persian/Iranian and Greco-Roman worlds, Achaemenid Egypt, mosaics, collection histories of Gandharan art, and animals in antiquity. A student in Art History and the  PhD Program in Visual Studies, she is an Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Graduate Fellow in Ancient Iranian Studies.


    Mark Gradoni (Ph.D. Candidate)

    Mark Gradoni is a doctoral student at the University California, Irvine in the department of History, where he focuses on the economic history of the Sasanian Empire. He holds a M.A. in the Humanities with a concentration in Art History and Archaeology from Hood College, as well as B.A.s in History and Ancient Studies from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. His academic training is interdisciplinary, combining archaeological, art historical, and historical methodologies. He studies Iran and the broader Near East in Late Antiquity with interests in public engagement with archaeology, and the phenomenon of pseudo-archaeology in popular media.


    Bermet Nishanova (Ph.D. Student)

    Bermet earned her M.S. in Art Conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts NYU and her M.A. in Art History at the University of Chicago. She is the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Graduate Fellow in Persian/Iranian Studies at UCI, where she studies early and medieval Islamic Central Asian visual and material cultures, focusing particularly on Islamic textiles. 


    Leighton Smith (Ph.D. Student)

    Leighton Smith earned his BA at University of California, Santa Cruz and joined the PhD Program in History as the Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Graduate Fellow in the Study of the Persian/Iranian World working under Prof. Daryaee. Leighton is interested the mutual impact of Iranian political and religious cosmologies with a special focus on non-Zoroastrian Iranian religions within late antique Iran, especially Manichaeism. A student in the PhD Program in History, he is an Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Graduate Fellow in Persian/Iranian Studies.


    Liz Wells (Ph.D. Candidate)

    Liz Wells is a scholar of transcultural exchange and visualities of authority in the late antique Mediterranean, the late antique Near East, and the early European Middle Ages. Her dissertation focuses on the Visigothic Kingdom and its engagement with the visual and spatial cultures of kingship in the Mediterranean and Western Asia. It weaves together ideas, approaches, and theoretical matrices from several of these fields and disciplines and bring them to bear on art historical material that rarely receives attention outside of the limited confines of early medieval art history. Among its goals is to introduce a more capacious and more humanistic conception of the Mediterranean and Near East during the period of c. 400-800 CE. 


    Layah Ziaii-Bigdeli (Ph.D. Candidate)

    Layah Ziaii-Bigdeli earned her B.A. in ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology at Columbia University and an M.A. in Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies with an emphasis on Islamic art at Rutgers University. Her master’s thesis examined Nishapur figural buff ware with an intention to understand the quality of modern conservation and its effects on scholarship. Her dissertation project at UCI studies the intersections between foodways and identities in the Sasanian and early Islamic period focusing particularly on Iranian silver and its impact on cultural practices and vessels of all mediums across Iran and Central Asia. Her additional research interests involve problems of continuity and change from Sasanian to Islamic Iran. Layah has worked as curatorial intern at the Smithsonian's Museum of Asian Art, Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture and Design, and the Philadelphia Museum of art as well as other museums.