Assistant Professor | Plant and Earth Science and Agricultural Engineering Technology
UW–River Falls | start date March 2022
What is your hometown?
I was born and raised in Rasht, Iran, which is called the rain city because it is bound by the Caspian Sea in the north and the Alborz Mountains in the south, which provides the perfect humid subtropical environment. It is so humid that the trees in the temperate rain forest to its south are covered with moss. Paddy (rice) is the main crop in the region that grows well in the clay soils of the area.
When talking about Rasht, it is impossible not to mention its foods and their varieties. Rasht is designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy due to its cuisine, which comprises poultry, eggs, and locally grown or wild vegetables.
What is your educational and professional background, including your previous position?
I obtained my PhD and a master’s degree from the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University, where I worked as a graduate research and teaching assistant. My graduate degrees were focused on hydrology and water quality, and I worked on cost-effective edge-of-field bioreactors to remove nitrate from agricultural waters. After graduation, I joined the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University as a postdoctoral scholar. While at Northwestern, I investigated carbon cycling in soils and streams of small agricultural watersheds.
Prior to Cornell, I completed my bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering and a master’s degree in agricultural engineering-irrigation and drainage in Iran.
How did you get into your field of research?
I have always been interested in soil and water dynamics. I vividly remember that in my teenage years, I used to observe basin irrigation for paddies and wondered how the cracks on clay soils disappeared after irrigation! These curiosities triggered my interest, and thus, I studied agricultural engineering, which later took me to Cornell, where I worked with Tammo Steenhuis, my PhD advisor. At Cornell, my focus shifted toward how agricultural practices impact water quality. I have worked on the transport, fate, and removal of agricultural contaminants ever since.
What are the goals of your current research program?
My research interest is in water quality and helping with the sustainable management of soil and water. My research is at the intersection of hydrology, nutrient dynamics, and biogeochemistry. I investigate soil and water processes and how hydrology impacts the fate and transport of nutrients and contaminants through leachate and runoff. The overarching objective of my research program is to mitigate the loss of nutrients and water contamination so that our communities can benefit from clean water.
What attracted you to UW–River Falls and the Dairy Innovation Hub?
Working as a researcher and educator at UW–River Falls with the Dairy Innovation Hub has given me the perfect opportunity to work on the topics I am passionate about. I can conduct research on protecting our waters and agricultural production, and I also teach and interact with students who are the future of this nation. At UW–River Falls, there are many first-generation college students that are working hard to put themselves through school. Therefore, I am proud to serve them and this community.
In addition, I work alongside fellow faculty who are enthusiastic about educating our students. We share the same values of advancing science and helping prepare our students to be productive, creative, ethical, and engaged citizens and leaders.
What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?
I would like my students to develop curiosity and critical thinking skills to discover the interconnectedness of our environment. I also emphasize how decision-making at the community level could have a large-scale impact, and thus, community engagement is crucial.
Does your work relate to the Wisconsin Idea?
Yes! My teaching focuses on applied hydrology with many hands-on exercises, which students can implement after graduation in their water-related careers. In my courses, I teach students to pay attention to how water and contaminants move above and below ground and relate that to the theoretical framework. Thus, my teaching extends beyond the classroom. My research also focuses on common real-word problems related to the quality of our environment, targeting improving its quality and the quality of life in our communities.