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Many major cities around the world suffer from the same problem: their streets are clogged with traffic, the city is enveloped in smog and the air is full of pollutants. Air pollution poses a serious risk to health. How can the city’s residents go about their daily business without fear of falling ill? Environmental scientist Dr Hamid Taheri Shahraiyni from Shahrood University in Iran is using a Georg Forster Research Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to search for a possible solution. As a visiting scientist at Freie Universität Berlin, he is developing a method designed to predict precisely what level of air pollution is present at a particular location. In our interview, he explains why he finds the research climate in Germany so agreeable.
Dr Taheri Shahraiyni, you are an environmental scientist and currently a visiting researcher at Freie Universität Berlin. What is the focus of your work?
The general topic of my work is “air pollution in urban areas”. We are trying to develop a model that will allow us to draw up high-resolution and real-time particulate matter concentration maps for Berlin. The findings of this study have many public applications. For example, people can use these real-time maps to identify which regions of Berlin are polluted at any given time, avoiding the unnecessary build-up of traffic in the polluted areas.
You are in close contact with your home university in Iran. Why is this exchange so important and how do both universities benefit from it?
I had a new idea for air pollution modelling which I was able to implement with the help of Freie Universität Berlin. The results of this study and the new techniques we developed have been published in scientific journals, the new findings being jointly attributed to Freie Universität Berlin (Germany) and Shahrood University (Iran). This is the main benefit for the two universities. Furthermore, because we studied air pollution in Berlin, our findings are also relevant to the city, and related organizations in Germany can utilize the findings of our study for air pollution management, decision-making about the issuing of public warnings, evaluation of public exposure to pollution, protection of public health in Berlin and so on. Our findings and the new techniques developed as a result of the study in Berlin have recently prompted a number of organizations and institutes in Iran to express interest in this study and in implementing this new air pollution modelling technique in Teheran and other polluted cities in Iran.
You are supported financially by a Georg Forster Research Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. What are the most important opportunities offered by this fellowship?
My research project is very innovative. Radical new ideas often also entail a certain risk – the outcome of such work is sometimes uncertain. Donors in Iran are cautious about promoting scientific projects like mine. When I applied for a Georg Forster Research Fellowship, I suddenly found that my idea was accepted and my project promoted. My research stay in Germany has also given me access to comprehensive information on air pollution and allowed me to make exciting scientific discoveries. My university in Iran is also interested, and I am delighted that close exchange with the Iranian University of Shahrood is possible. My research in Germany is highly regarded in Iran, so it will be easier for me to raise new research funds when I return.
What do you like about researching and living in Germany?
My wife and I live in Germany without stress. We enjoy living in Germany. Germany is very well organized, and everything is in order and on time. The laws here make for an excellent quality of life, and the equal status given to people from different countries, also with respect to their rights, is wonderful. This means that no-one bothers you, and everyone in Germany has full social security. I work at the university without any stress or difficulties. All the members of the university are very helpful and our communication is friendly. In short, researching in Germany is excellent. The outstanding findings of our research project are the result of this conducive research atmosphere at Germany’s universities.
Dr Taheri Shahraiyni, thank you for the interview. We wish you every success with your research project.
Georg Forster Research Fellowship
The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Georg Forster Research Fellowship invites postdoctoral students and experienced researchers from developing countries and emerging economies to spend a period of time conducting research in Germany. Applications for a fellowship can be submitted at any time.More