From Iran to Cape Breton: Visiting PhD Student Ali Shafiee

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Ali Shafiee grew up in Shiraz, one of the largest and oldest cities in Iran. As a teen, he dreamed of a life in Canada, and now as a visiting PhD student at Cape Breton University, that dream has become a reality.

Ali had been studying analytical chemistry at Damghan University when he discovered the work of CBU researcher, Dr. Shine (Xu) Zhang. Serving as the Research Chair in Applied Nanotechnology, Dr. Zhang is an expert in exploiting nanotechnology for environmental and health applications, and Ali had referenced his papers and findings in his own research. Ali felt that Dr. Zhang would be the perfect mentor and reached out directly, requesting to visit CBU as a student researcher.

Dr. Zhang was thrilled about Ali’s ambition and was more than happy to say yes. Ali arrived in Cape Breton on September 26, 2018 and will be conducting research at CBU for one year. During this time, he will be working on sections of his PhD thesis, preparing it for defence when he returns to Damghan.

“My thesis focuses on determination of trace amounts of chemicals in various media, such as water,” says Ali. “One of the most important applications of my research is to find new technologies for water purification.”

Ali works with Dr. Zhang and his team of researchers across the Verschuren Centre and the CBU Chemistry department. He says having such high-tech equipment at his fingertips has been amazing and the diversity of the research team is an added bonus. “Working with people from across the world is so enjoyable. Being in this great country while doing my part to make the world a better place is the highlight of my experience,” says Ali.

If there’s one thing that has taken Ali by surprise, it’s the weather. “In Iran, winter temperatures might drop to minus five,” says Ali. “Not minus twenty-five! Never!” But he laughs it off, saying it’s all part of the adventure.

When he returns to Iran, Ali will defend his thesis in hopes of earning his PhD degree. Canada has stolen his heart, and he says he would be happy to come back as a post-doctoral researcher. Ali wants all of his friends back home to take a look at CBU and everything it can offer students and researchers. “Come to CBU and use your knowledge and skills to change the world!” He urges.

“I always say that being here is a gift from God. And I’m so thankful to Dr. Zhang for giving me this great opportunity,” says Ali. “Working under the supervision of one of the most respected and knowledgeable professors in the field, on cutting edge projects and high-tech equipment is what I’ve wanted all my life.”

 

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