UH’s Mielad Ziaee Named 2024 Truman Scholar

Honors Student Becomes Third UH Student to Earn Prestigious Honor

Student Mielad Ziaee

By Mike Emery, 713-743-7197

Student Mielad Ziaee’s passion for helping others inspires his insightful research and leadership at the University of Houston. Likewise, his career ambitions in the worlds of public health and medicine have earned national awards and acclaim from faculty and peers alike.

Ziaee, a junior psychology major, earns another exclusive honor as he becomes just the third Harry S. Truman Scholar from the University of Houston. This scholarship is awarded to students such as Ziaee, who demonstrate a commitment to their communities and to public service.

Truman Scholars are awarded up to $30,000 to apply toward graduate or professional school. New scholars attend seminars and workshops and meet past scholarship recipients. Likewise, Ziaee and his fellow scholarship recipients will have opportunities to meet with leaders in public service and connect with graduate schools and programs from across the nation.

“I’m excited to engage with changemakers, stakeholders, and leaders at all levels of public service—to both learn new topics and continue to grow my expertise in others,” Ziaee said. “By joining this community, I can expand my efforts through the larger support network and resources. I’m also excited about everything else this scholars community will bring—the conversations, the memories, and the opportunities.”

While the Truman Scholarship is indeed an honor, it complements a number of other awards received by Ziaee. Last September, he was selected for the National Institutes of Health All of Us Research Scholars Program. He also took part in the Centers for Disease Control John R. Lewis Scholars Program, the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship and the George “Trey” Pharis Memorial Fellowship from the Honors College at UH. In 2023, Ziaee also was selected by the Texas Governor’s Office as the 2023-2024 student regent serving on the UH System Board of Regents.

As an aspiring physician-scientist, Ziaee has concentrated his research on health care access and disparities and data science.

Food insecurity remains a research topic close to Ziaee’s heart. He has focused projects on food insecurity within UH’s neighboring community in Third Ward.

“Food insecurity in America is preventable,” he said “Of course, food insecurity—and, by extension, all public health challenges—is complex. However, we can study its root causes with communities, data experts, and policymakers to address these complexities. My work in food insecurity has given me a more holistic perspective on policymaking, healthcare, and wellbeing.”

Ziaee is among just 60 university juniors selected by the Harry S. Truman Foundation for this scholarship. More than 700 applicants were reviewed for this honor.

He credits faculty such as biology instructor and Honors College faculty member Rita Sharp, as well as research mentors T. Andrew Zabel and Christina Eguizabal Love of Kennedy Krieger Institute. He also acknowledges Andrea Link, executive director of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, for her mentorship.

At UH, he is grateful for the guidance of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards for its support during the Truman application process. The office and its executive director, Ben Rayder, were particularly helpful in preparing him to apply for this and other prestigious awards.

“OURMA gave me a space and guidance to reflect on my goals, interests, and trajectory," Ziaee said. “My work is often so fast-paced that I forget to take time and see how far I’ve come. I extend my gratitude to Dr. Rayder for his mentorship in this process.”

Ziaee is a first-generation student and the son of Iranian immigrants and said his family members are his biggest cheerleaders during his academic and professional journeys. Although he has achieved much success during his time at UH, he recognizes the challenges faced by immigrants and other marginalized populations, particularly in terms of health care.

The Truman Scholarship will support his work in bridging health care disparities or gaps encountered by these very communities.

 “As a Truman Scholar, I can’t wait to collaborate with others to create actionable change at a systemic level,” he said.

The Truman Scholarship honors the memory and legacy of late U.S. President Harry S. Truman. In 1974, an Act of Congress was passed authorizing the Truman Scholarship Foundation to conduct a nationwide competitive search for scholarship recipients. The first Truman Scholarships were awarded for students in 1977.

Ziaee joins esteemed policy makers and community leaders who also have earned Truman Scholarships. Past recipients include States Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, U.S. Senator Chris Coons, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, former Arizona Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of Education John King and Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams.  

More details on Truman Scholars are available on the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation’s website.

“Mielad Ziaee is the very model of student excellence at the University of Houston, and we are proud of his success,” said UH President Renu Khator. “His hard work has resulted in several prestigious awards, including the Truman Scholarship. He raises the bar for his peers and truly elevates the University of Houston with his professionalism, poise and persistence.”