[By Shideh] We are back in Berkeley and are in the process of organizing our photos/videos from Iran. We’ll post short summaries with observations from our trip over the next few weeks (as it’s going to be long… and there were plenty of interesting topics for discussion that came up). First, today, a few short thoughts and impressions from Tehran:
· In many ways, Tehran had improved in terms of its infrastructure layout and city planning.
· Tehran Metro was amazing (in its plan, functioning, looks, comfort, etc.)!
· Pollution and traffic seemed to have reduced substantially after the gas limits were in effect.
· The government has started a seismic risk reduction program, retrofitting the public buildings according to priorities. However, the most important obstacle remains to be the existing obstacles in the construction industry. Government agencies are having a difficult time controlling what is actually being built (which is rarely the same as what is designed and approved for construction).
· Most academicians are frustrated about lack of budget, poor higher management and coordination among different institutions, unhealthy competition among peers, and lack of hope for improvement. There are, however, many individuals who are making changes in different industries and the country seems to be open to young talents who want to improve the system (as long as they don’t clash with the old beliefs). In general, it seems Iran is moving forward quickly (after suffering for so long during the war) and is trying to find its place in the international community. There are many obstacles on the way, largely lack of cooperation and bad leadership and management in many areas. We felt though, that the energy of the enthusiastic and fervent youth of the country is driving us forward.
· I talked at 4 institutions during this trip (Shiraz University, Sharif University of Technology, IIEES, and Tehran University) about my doctoral research here in Berkeley. During these visits, we had the opportunity to meet many amazing individuals who are working hard to overcome the problems on their way and succeed to contribute substantially to the world with their scientific findings and achievements. Many of them face problems that we (outside of Iran) rarely have to deal with. For example, Tehran University and IIEES have purchased a centrifuge from France for use in geotechnical engineering research. The centrifuge itself arrived on time. However, a new sanction during this purchase resulted in an incomplete trade where France never sent Iran even the manuals or technicians to complete its set up. Therefore, the civil engineering students are working on their own to complete the set up and use the facility for research. There are many such problems that students have to face which is disturbing to see. These kinds of problems have limited their ability to actually focus on what they want to learn through their research projects. They, however, are as energetic and enthusiastic as ever and are moving forward, despite the existing shortcomings and lack of budget. DAMETOON GARM to all the students in Iran.
… more to come!