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Born in Baghdad to parents of Armenian descent, Herant Khanjian spent his first 14 years in Iraq. He recalls as a child visiting Baghdad museums and the reconstructed ruins of ancient Babylon. He also vividly remembers seeing the great Arch of Ctesiphon, built by the Persians and possibly the widest single-span vault in the world. History—in particular, Islamic history—had an early fascination for him.

In 1987 his parents, desiring a better future for their children, moved the family to Jordan, where they lived for seven months. From there, the family immigrated to the United States, settling in Los Angeles. Herant attended college at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), majoring in chemistry. But science wasn't his only interest. A course he took in European art and its relationship to the history of its time made a positive impression. During his junior year, he had a job in CSUN's chemistry laboratory, but he wanted exposure to a workplace outside of school. After responding to an ad posted in the chemistry department, he was hired in 1988 as a part-time student assistant for the GCI's scientific program.

Following graduation, he became a full-time research assistant with the Institute. His initial work focused on liquid chromatography analysis of organic materials. Later he studied infrared spectroscopy and gas chromatography as tools for analysis. He found the gas chromatography research particularly rewarding and is pleased to have coauthored a number of articles on the subject that are having an impact on the field.

In 1996 he was promoted to assistant scientist. Much of his work today again involves infrared spectroscopy that supports the Getty Museum conservation laboratories by analyzing samples of artworks being conserved. He is also a member of GCI project teams studying new techniques for the surface cleaning of art objects and architecture, including gels methods and laser cleaning. Coming from a country with a long history and an ancient culture—and from a family with strong ties to its ethnic heritage—gives Herant a great sense of connection to his work. Being at the GCI has offered him the welcome chance to meet people from a variety of places, providing a cultural education he enjoys.