By Mahrokh Gholamhosseinpour
January 28, 2020
Although Tahereh Kaghazchi has been widely praised in Iran as an exemplary chemist and as part of the Iranian scientific community, she grew in prominence when her biography was published in the book Asia’s Most Outstanding Female Scientists.
Kaghazchi has received several accolades, and was recognized as the nation’s model lecturer in 1994, hailed as one of the country’s best female authors as well as translator of the year, and as an enduring figure in chemistry in 2003. She received her doctorate in the United Kingdom and then returned to Iran. She is currently a researcher and lecturer at Amirkabir University of Technology, supervising postgraduate and doctoral theses. She is a member of the American Chemical Society, a permanent member of the Iranian Academy of Sciences and a member of the Iranian Oil Association.
Kaghazchi was born in Tehran in 1947 and attended Hadaf High School, one of the most distinguished high schools in Tehran at that time. It was founded by Dr. Ahmad Birashk and a group of friends in 1949, and until the year it was closed by the government in 1980, it was always respected by the educated community. Kaghazchi says her father was her most important motivator, and while it was uncommon for girls to study in scientific fields in those days, she was fortunate enough to have his complete support: “I owe my interest and progress to my father. Although it was not common or normal for girls to study and work in those days, he would take the lead in any matter that made my scientific progress possible and never impeded my scientific visits. At the time, I was the only female chemical engineering student at the university’s technical school.” She says the foundation for research is embedded in the family, and emphasizes the importance of having a spirit of inquiry as part of providing opportunities for children.
Kaghazchi attended the University of Tehran Technical School in 1965, where she studied chemical engineering. She was an outstanding student, and did her undergraduate and postgraduate studies simultaneously at Tehran University. She went on to marry a fellow student at the university named Morteza Sohrabi, and they later both studied at Bradford University in the United Kingdom. They returned to Iran after Kaghazchi completed her doctorate in chemical engineering in 1973.
Just 16 days after her return, Kaghazchi started work as assistant professor of chemical engineering at Sharif University of Technology, becoming a professor a few years later. She taught at the University of Tehran Technical School, the Science and Technology University, Ahvaz University of Technology, and Shahid Bahonar University in Kerman as a visiting professor.
Kaghazchi set up the Department of Food Engineering in the Faculty of Chemical Engineering at Amirkabir University of Technology in 1985. She co-wrote many scientific articles with Sohrabi, including a translation of Robert Treybal’s book Mass-Transfer Operations. Kaghazchi has published more than 100 scientific articles in internationally renowned journals and has been the source of much research.
Kaghazchi’s husband Sohrabi also received a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Bradford, and lectured as a professor at Tehran University of Technology and Amirkabir University of Technology on Mass and Energy, Thermodynamics of Chemical Engineering, Kinetics, and Chemical Reactor Design. He died in March 2015 at the age of 69 after suffering an illness. He was honored as a lifetime scientific figure in 2002, a year before his wife was named as a lifetime scientific figure in the field of chemistry.
In a conversation with the Iran Book News Agency in December 2009, Kaghazchi expressed her contentment about the fact that more women were attending university and said: “I see a significant increase in the number of women in research. When I was a student, only one or two girls were accepted as engineering students, but now 60 percent of my students are girls. In my opinion, the future science and research fields belong to women, and the generation that is in charge of the future will be the educated mothers of researchers and scientists.”
She also points out the shortcomings of the education system in Iran: “The education process in our country is such that we are destroying talents. These conditions will result in youth depression, repetitive and boring classes, repetitive university entrance tests, and extensive unnecessary reading. There are many problems with research in our country. The distribution of research budgets and their amount is very low compared to other countries that do research. They allocate 150,000 to 200,000 tomans [U$11 to $14] for postgraduate research topics, but the research in our field is applied science and requires money and tools, and a lot of money is needed to put theory into practice.”
The book Asia’s Most Outstanding Female Scientists featured a biography of Kaghazchi. It was compiled by the Association of Academies and Societies in Asia and included 50 influential women from candidates nominated by more than 30 academic institutions in the Asia-Pacific region.
Kaghazchi still lives in Tehran and works at the university.