Friday, January 25, 2008

Back and forth; between science and politics

Classes are finished by now at the University , students and faculty alike are preparing for exams. Those students working on their thesis now find their advisers more available. Tarbiat Modares is a graduate university created after the Islamic Revolution. We have only MS and PhD degree programs in a wide variety of fields. Both degree programs have a thesis which includes practical research on a basic or applied approach and seminars which are intended to upgrade the research and presentation skills of the students.
One of the Immunology Department students had decided to take his seminar with me , and we had several sessions together to define the subject and prepare an outline of the topic and how it is to be presented in oral and written forms. I usually let the students find the subject themselves, since I believe looking for questions and unresolved issues is part of the research and the same goes for their thesis. I do not agree with certain colleagues who provide students with ready-to go subjects.
Students know what specific field each faculty is involved in and prefers to work on. This student proposed to work on Th17 which is a newly debated pattern for inflammatory cytokine responses. I thought it was an interesting subject and on the frontiers of immunological research, but he took a daring decision as well . He told me that he wished to present both the oral and written form of the seminar in English. For a student studying in Iran, gaining a strong command of English, is a difficult process, since our existing educational systems do not provide strong English training, unless the student takes his own initiative in this regard. Mahmood presented his well prepared seminar in English and did a good job , although he still needs to work on his pronunciation, syntax and sentence structure but on the overall he took a daring decision and did well.
As a retreat from the hectic work in the City Council and Environment Committee, I enjoy my work at the University very much. I consider working with my students as a blessing from God since I feel it gives me energy to deal with some of the difficult challenges we face in life. We have challenges in politics, in implementation of our ideals and in our efforts to improve the quality of life for our citizens. It does seem difficult sometimes, moving back and forth from politics to academic work, but I have been on that double track for a long time now.
What bothers me is the discrepancies we see between what the politicians say and what they actually practice. The recent disqualification of a large number of reformist candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections , is an indication that the legal procedures have become politicized . Independent press and media have all seriously objected to this process. The struggle is more than a tug of war between the rival political factions ie.; the reformists and the conservatives in power.
This debate is understood as a struggle to maintain the democratic quality of the Islamic Republic. This seems to be an indication that those in power are not ready to relinquish their grip on power through democratic means. I hope the reformists will succeed to correct this trend.


Anonymous said...

Dear Dr Ebtekar,
You can't imagine how glad I was when I saw your English weblog. It was very necessary. I read in your Takeover that all the good purposes you had were undone by the media. Here you can do something for retelling our 30-year purposes. It's hard to guess how you can manage to write here (with all the jobs you have); but, it's Great and I ask God to help you with that.

Anonymous said...

Salam Dr. Ebtekar,

I'm reading your blog from Montreal Canada. I enjoyed the topics (both in Persian and English blog). I know how much time and energy needs to update two weblogs.
As a graduate students who spent two years to find a problem for his PhD thesis! I disagree with your idea that "student should find the problem by him/her self!"
My professor just gave me general topic, but he did not have a specific problem! Albeit he is always available to help, however, not having a specific problem has wasted a lot of my time!
IMHO, the supervisor should specify the AREA, then the TOPIC, and give a few PROBLEMS, then the student should select one problem, and write his/her proposal around that problem.

Payandeh baashid,