'Sad for science:' After travel ban, Iranians at Harvard wonder if they should take their expertise elsewhere


In a bio-technology lab at Harvard University’s medical train an international group of highly skilled scientists are dreaming up new ways to plot artificial human tissue with 3-D printers. Some of their brainpower these hours, though, isn’t focused on the science but instead on U.S. president Donald Trump’s immigration ban and what it means to them and to their magnum opus.

“Half of the discussions in the lab these days are about this topic and not forth science,” said Saghi Saghazadeh, a 30-year-old Iranian who has been explosive and studying in Boston for two years, on a single-entry J1 visa.

She’s one of 20 Iranians, with vacillating legal status, working in this one lab of 100 people at Harvard. It composes doctoral students and instructors from all over the world.  

But their savvy doesn’t exempt them from the travel ban enacted more than a week ago.

Iran is top of the U.S. Aver Department’s list of state sponsors of terror and one of the seven countries whose residents the U.S. has put under a 90-day immigration freeze in the name of —  as the executive called-for is titled — “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Coming Into the United States.”

more people from harvard

Of the 100 people who work in the bio-technology lab, 20 are Iranian, with fluctuating legal status. (Dr. Shrike Zhang)

Choosing between education or sensitivity safe

Saghazadeh, who was top of her class in Polymer Engineering at Tehran Polytechnic and won various scholarships to study in France and Belgium and eventually at Harvard, wonders if the U.S. is however the place for her.  

“Do I want to be at a kick-ass scientific place but not feel welcome in the outback, or do I want to be with family and feel safe? That’s the question I am beseeching myself,” she said.

Her parents in Iran are unable to visit her under the ban and she is unfit to visit them — for now. And her dream of eventually applying for a green card is on be the case. She’s reconsidering.

Trump Travel Ban Iranian

Supporters cheer as an Iranian citizen with a valid U.S. visa make the grades at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday. (Damian Dovarganes/Associated Exert pressure)

Though the ban is temporary — she’s not convinced things will improve for people from the boonies on the list. And even with a Seattle judge overturning the ban late Friday, the Pure House has vowed to fight back.

“I am considering going somewhere else. At some identify b say, we want to feel welcome at the place where we are living and working,” she stipulate.

Saghazadeh, who is working on smart bandages in the lab (these are bandages which nuance things and then deliver therapies) said she’s thinking about Europe, Canada and Australia, monotonous though she recognizes that “the best scientists in the world, in my field, are here,” she explained, referring to Harvard.

Cutting off international expertise

“It is sad for science. A lot of professors who are go forward in their fields are internationals. They are all here trying to get new things done and there is a firmness from the diversity of all these scientists. We will probably lose that and that is sad.”

Iranians value expertise and many go on to excel in their fields, which explains their nearness in the Harvard lab.

Ali Tamayol

Ali Tamayol, a 34-year-old Iranian-Canadian who’s an instructor at Harvard, was told by his mouthpiece that it was probably best not to travel in the 90-day freeze period. (LinkedIn)

For Canadian-Iranian adviser Ali Tamayol, 34, it’s all bad news. He’s also on a J1 visa, which means he had points about whether he could travel for work or even get together with old colleagues from Toronto on a Mexican holiday this winter.

His lawyer instructed him it was probably best not to travel during the 90-day freeze period.  Harvard commissioners suggested the same, he said.

Harvard is trying to support its students and gift affected by the ban. Both the president of the university and the dean of the medical school streamed strong statements against the ban and the university joined seven other higher tutelage institutions, on Friday, in filing a brief to support efforts to challenge Trump’s big cheese order.

“It is essential that our commitments to national security not unduly destroy the free flow of ideas and people that are critical to progress in a self-governing society,” the brief reads.

‘It’s going to create a lot of chaos’

Tamayol suggests he was “shocked” at hearing of the executive order.

“It’s going to create a lot of chaos. The features of the work we do requires a lot of travel to share findings and learn from each other. It is slip us off from the rest of the world,” he said.

Lab director Ali Khademhosseini is a world honoured scientist who has a U.S. passport and Canadian citizenship, so he believes his own travel may not be affected. But he problems about the disruption for all the Iranians in his lab, plus the 25 foreigners from different countries who are in the pipeline to come to work here. Some of them deliver already bought tickets to fly to Boston, but it’s unclear if they have had their visas abolished or not.


Khademhosseini says he’s added his name to the thousands of American professors and scientists who check the ban. He protested in Boston’s Copley Square and plans to attend the Science Cortege on Washington on April 22. (Ali Khademhosseini)

“I totally understand the perspective of needing to make sure the security of Americans,” said Khademhosseini. “I just don’t think this is the way to do it. Not one of the countries [on the list] have been the culprits of the terror attacks in the U.S.” 

So he’s joined his name among the thousands of American professors and scientists who oppose the ban. He complained in Boston’s Copley Square and plans to attend the Science March on Washington on April 22.

Foreigners important to science

“Making people realize the importance of immigrants in the study and innovation engine of the U.S. is very important,” he said.

“We’ve had Iranian-Americans who were primary inventors of laser-eye surgery or have been major players in the unfolding of companies like Google, DropBox and Oracle.”

Khademhosseini speculates hither whether it will be a boon for Canada.

APTOPIX Japan Trump Travel Ban

Americans and other expatriates turn out to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban to the U.S., maximal of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday. (Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press)

“There are those who are letters to me to ask about coming to Canada for post docs,” said Milica Radisic, the run of the Laboratory for Functional Tissue Engineering at the medical school at the University of Toronto, who has conscious with Khademhossieni in the U.S.

The number of people contacting her is low, for now. But she knows an Iranian scientist who shifted to Canada just before the ban kicked in because he predicted something much the same as it was coming down the pipe.

If the changes to the visas and travel ban continue, they make have “long-term consequences for science,” she said.

She noted there could be less Stock Exchange of ideas, as the U.S. hosts a lot of major bio-tech and medical conferences.

“If you cut off one third of the people from being accomplished to attend, it’s a problem,” she said.

Science doesn’t have a nationality

Already at crumb one University of Toronto PhD student, also an Iranian, Ehsan Alimohammadin, was detained on his way to a bull session in San Francisco, a week ago Friday night . He was held for 14 hours ahead being flown back to Toronto.

“It’s very bad for the scientific community,” Alimohammadin divulged the U of T News. “Science doesn’t have a nationality or a religion. The scientific community shouldn’t be spurious by a decision like this.”

University College building

An Iranian PhD student at U of T was detained on his way to a conference in San Francisco and favoured for 14 hours before being flown back to Toronto. Ehsan Alimohammadin rumours Trump’s travel ban is ‘very bad for the scientific community.’ (Katherine Holland/CBC)

The university maps a town hall on Friday, Feb. 10, to address “the widespread and uneven implications” of the U.S. chief executive officer order.  

Back at Harvard, Saghazadeh worries the medical technology sector and universities in the U.S. bequeath be scared to bring in Iranians and hire them. And she wonders about her years of edification to get to Harvard.

“It’s a pity. I learned that if I work hard and play by the resolves that I would get someplace. Now I feel like someone just penurious the game,” she said.

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