iran’s education race

18 08 2008

[By Shideh]   Another interesting article for TehranShake readers:


Published Aug 9, 2008
Aug. 18-25, 2008 issue


The Star Students of the Islamic Republic
Forget Harvard—one of the world’s best undergraduate colleges is in Iran.

By Afshin Molavi | NEWSWEEK
 Stanford University‘s Electrical Engineering Department were startled when a group of foreign students aced the notoriously difficult Ph.D. entrance exam, getting some of the highest scores ever. That the whiz kids weren’t American wasn’t odd; students from Asia and elsewhere excel in U.S. programs. The surprising thing, say Stanford administrators, is that the majority came from one country and one school: Sharif University of Science and Technology in Iran.
Stanford has become a favorite destination of Sharif grads. Bruce A. Wooley, a former chair of the Electrical Engineering Department, has said that’s because Sharif now has one of the best undergraduate electrical-engineering programs in the world. That’s no small praise given its competition: MIT, Caltech and Stanford in the United States, Tsinghua in China and Cambridge in Britain.
Sharif’s reputation highlights how while Iran makes headlines for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s incendiary remarks and its nuclear showdown with the United States, Iranian students are developing an international reputation as science superstars. Stanford’s administrators aren’t the only ones to notice. Universities across Canada and Australia, where visa restrictions are lower, report a big boom in the Iranian recruits; Canada has seen its total number of Iranian students grow 240 percent since 1985, while Australian press reports point to a fivefold increase over the past five years, to nearly 1,500…

To view the full article: click here



recent and active tectonics in tehran region and central alborz

18 08 2008


[By Shideh]   I received this email from a friend (Mr. Alireza Sarvi) that might be of interest to TehranShake:


USGS recently presented an interesting seminar about active tectonics and risk of earthquakes in Tehran region. The slides as well as the complete video are available in their web site now:


Toward the end of the page, you can access to the seminar with the topic of “Recent and active tectonics in Tehran region and Central Alborz, Iran”, as well its slides and video. It seems that seismic risk in Tehran now gets the attention of well-recognized geological institutes around the world. By the way, from Geophysical point of view, I asked the speaker about the result of micro-seismic activities and the video includes it (from time around 43).

demography, urbanism, etc

12 08 2008

[By Shawhin]   My friend just sent me a nice article on urbanism, planning, gentrification trends, etc in North American cities.  It’s a great read – but be sure to also read the comments and arguments: (Thanks, Mei!)

For good complimentary reading, check out Robert Putnam’s (Professor of Public Policy at Harvard) article on social capital:

Or listen to an interview with Prof. Putnam, at:

me and my model!

6 08 2008

[By Shideh]   I am sitting inside a round building with a big centrifuge and my model that has become like a friend (sort of like Tom Hanks and the Volleyball named Wilson in the movie Cast Away!)  I am here to run an experiment as a part of a research project.  I have stayed over night monitoring this model (for the past week) and get to rest for a few hours during the days while someone else covers for me.  In the process, this little model has taught me a lot!  It’s interesting how a lifeless thing can teach us important lessons some times.  Or perhaps it’s me being alone at nights having the opportunity to think and reflect…  Who knows?



My model and I are sitting in this big round building right now in the middle of no where and are thinking about the significance of the word “patience”.  This experiment cannot happen without lots and lots of patience.  It seems it’s an important lesson as we all mature.  When it’s dark and scary outside, my model and I think about what songs can make us feel better and how funny it is that life has brought us here!  We get depressed some times, frustrated at the world for long hours of work and no sleep.  Then we start to smile at each other again and think about how I am being trained to be patient.

My model is sitting here quietly as it is slowly filled with water and as I prepare some of the instrumentation and learn about the electrical system here. I sing to it sometimes and I wonder if anyone can hear me.  The person who cleans this building arrives at 7am and every time he is startled to see me here!


While I work at nights over my beloved model that I have created from scratch, I think a lot about everything that I don’t normally have time to think about.  Most recently, I have been thinking about the concept of creativity.  I read a book called “Jame’e Shenasi Nokhbeh Koshi” in Persian many years ago which is about the historical failure of Iranians to encourage reforming minds (like Hasanak Vazir, Amir Kabir, or Mossadeq).  According to this book, not only don’t we encourage creativity and reform, we also kill motivation in anyone who has the slightest desire to improve the system.  Among many other things, this book argues that Iran became a “user” society at some point in history and has been copying the west ever since.  I wondered then if there was much hope for a society with such a fate.  I wonder today…

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