This year, members of five scientific groups have received special grants sponsored by FAR’s Armenian National Science and Education Fund (ANSEF) program, and FAR’s partners, the Young Scientists Support Program sponsored by the Armenian President, and the Youth Foundation of Armenia.

Hovhannes Arestakesyan, 27, is one of them. He learned about ANSEF during his postgraduate studies at the Orbeli Institute of Physiology. His colleague, Narine Ghazaryan (a former ANSEF grant recipient herself) told him about the program, which, through monetary support for research, helps to enable Armenian scientists and scholars to stay and work in their native country. “I first failed, then I got the shot,” said Hovhannes as he recalled the time when he previously applied and got rejected, and then the interesting circumstances in which he finally received his confirmation letter.

“I received the ANSEF letter on December 31st, 2016. I opened it but was confused—numbers, shifts, and no single word. I thought that maybe it was a program default on New Year Eve. … I opened the same letter on January 2nd that read, ‘Dear Hovhannes, your proposal was selected for funding. Congratulations!’ I screamed for joy in the middle of the night and woke my parents up. To be honest, they were scared,” smiled Hovhannes.

Each grant from ANSEF and partners provides $5,000 to a group. Sixteen out of 30 of this year’s ANSEF grant recipients are young researchers and scientists under the age of 35 who have a definite desire to stay and work in their native country, thus contributing to its social and economic growth.

Hovhannes was born and raised in a family of engineers in Gyumri. By the age of 10, he was totally engrossed in the natural sciences, biology in particular. He credits his interest in this field to his biology teacher, Gohar Atsikyan, who inspired him to go deeper into it.

In 2007, Hovhannes entered the University of Pedagogy in Yerevan and got both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Soon after, he continued his postgraduate education at the National Academy of Sciences.

Currently, Hovhannes, together with his partner Vahan Grigoryan, 22, studies the poison of the Transcaucasian mountain snake, the Gyurza. Besides being poisonous, the venom from the Gyurza, or Macrovipera lebetina obtuse (MLO), does not contain any known toxins. The team’s ANSEF-supported project is focuses on how they can study the snake’s venom in order to understand how it affects the cardio system of humans, and how it could actually be used in physical therapy methods.

The young scientist confessed that his success comes mostly from his sense of responsibility, which he attributes to his mother. “I know that scientists have a hard time living and working in Armenia. I started from scratch, and I overcame many obstacles. The ANSEF grant is a step forward in my professional career, as I want to go deeper into the current research. I might leave the country for a short while to study, but I’ll definitely come back,” said Hovhannes.