Born in Iran, raised in Iowa, and trained as a geneticist and cell biologist, Katayoun has been conducting research to better understand why some students share her love for biology, while others recoil from the subject. Part of her work suggests that biology courses must be contextualized and made relevant, especially for those students who don’t initially see biology as important to their everyday experiences. To promote this education reform, she has developed seminars, workshops and educational materials that reflect an interactive and case-based method of teaching and learning with a strong emphasis on infographic thinking. She firmly believes that biology is accessible and relevant to everyone, and that a basic understanding of biology it important for a democratic society. She has developed and taught courses for the Graduate Program in International Affairs and the Interdisciplinary Science Major/Minor for undergradutes studying liberal arts and/or design.
More recently, she has developed lab-based interdisciplinary modules for Parsons and Lang first-year courses and developed a semester-length course titled Biology Art, and Social Justice for incoming Lang freshman and a short course version for the Higher Education Opportunity Summer Bridge Program. In Spring 2016, she launched Stem Cells Across the Curriculum, an open access collection of educational modules developed in collaboration with seven faculty members and nine students spanning biology, humanities, gender studies, bioethics, health policy, health psychology, disability studies, and critical race studies. The curriculum uses a social justice framework and infographic thinking to integrate the biological, ethical, social, and legal dimensions of stem cell research and has been selected as a SENCER Model Course and adapted by educators working at diverse institutions. She received the Distinguished University Teaching Award in 2000 and the Excellence in Faculty Advising from Eugene Lang College in 2010.
In 2008, Katayoun was elected to serve as a Leadership Fellow for the National Center for Science & Civic Engagement (SENCER) and received their William E. Bennett Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Citizen Science in 2017. Katayoun is a guest contributor to the Biopolitical Times blog hosted by the Center for Genetics and Society. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1996.