2008-09-23 12:15

Shafiei masterstudent from Iran

Master Not a lot of people, but a lot of things growing. Those were Marzieh Shafiei’s first impressions of Sweden when she in 2004 arrived here with her husband, an exchange PhD student at Chalmers. She is now back in Sweden, this time around at the University College of Borås to take the two-year Master in industrial biotechnology.<br /> “Borås is full of people,” she merrily declares upon that realization.

Caption: Marzieh Shafiei was ranked first<br /> among students in Isfahan by achieving a very high grade.<br /> The PhD students of her husband’s and Professor Mohammad Taherzadeh’s<br /> were among the best students at the Isfahan and Sharif universities.

As early on as in junior high school Marzieh Shafiei felt a special appeal to science. It was physics that attracted her most, and as a high school student she won a bronze medal in a national physics contest, a ‘physics Olympics’ of sorts. But physics also meant a lot of theoretical studies she recalls and remembers longing for more practical work. It ended up being studies in chemical engineering at the Ishafan University of Technology, one of Iran’s most prestigious universities.

“More than half of the students were female, it was almost as if the university started developing affirmative action measures directed at men.”

That is her answer to the question of whether it was hard or not to be a woman enrolled at a traditionally male educational field in a country which seems run by the patriarchy.

Marzieh Shafiei is however aware that there are limits to her as a woman.

“I cannot, for example, run all the tests at a production site. Some experiments require a physical strength that I, as a woman, cannot muster.”

The Will to Learn More

Marzieh Shafiei is calm and seems insightful. In some way she feels older and more mature than her age of 23 would have one believe. Maybe it’s her thirst for knowledge that shines through. She says she’s always had the desire to learn more. It was that desire that made her join her husband for his post-PhD work in Sweden, and made her decide to study and get a Master’s degree herself.

After three weeks at the Energy and Material Recycling Programme focusing on industrial biotechnology, she is full of new impressions.

“Here you take one course at a time, unlike in Iran, where courses are taken simultaneously. Also, different kinds of engineers study together here. It might slow things down slightly, but provides new angles and will surely be useful down the road, when we cooperate more intensely.”

Marzieh Shafiei is very positive to her choice of school. It might as well have been the Isfahan University of Technology. But Sweden had a bigger appeal and she recalled positive the experiences her husband had had of Swedish schools. His supervisor has been Professor Mohammad Taherzadeh at the University College of Borås.

Now that Marzieh Shafiei’s husband was once again given the opportunity to work with Professor Mohammad Taherzadeh, it was impossible to disregard, she explains. She has grand expectations on her own Master’s programme.

“I hope to be able to work with industrial design of biotechnical solutions. I am very interested in that, and there is great demand for it in Iran.”

Sweden – a Well Reputed Brand

“Higher education is an issue of class in Iran. The best students there choose to study technology because engineers are often better paid than other professionals,” says Professor Mohammad Taherzadeh, who got his own degree at the Isfahan University of Technology.

“’Sweden’ as a brand enjoys a good reputation in Iran. It is usually mentioned in the context of advanced technology, good quality, welfare and freedom. That, along with the fact that education is free in Sweden, is probably what attracts students to come here,” he says.

“The University College of Borås has done well in marketing its skill and research in certain areas, such as a sustainable development and resource recycling. Those are probably just a few of the things that attract the Iranian students,” explains Mohammad Taherzadeh.

Further education in Sweden and the Western World is usually ranked higher by Iranian students than studies at home. In addition, certain students want to make a name for themselves on foreign work markets,” he says and points out that the majority of the students in Iran are women. This year, all of 64 % of the students enrolled are women.

Marzieh Shafiei is looking forward to her two years of Master’s studies here at the University College of Borås. What then happens is uncertain, but she doesn’t believe she will be pursuing further studies.

“I have seen how tired a disputation can make you,” she says and laughs timidly.

Text and photo: Belma Kratovic