Center Announces 2024 Faculty Research Fellow, Dr. Arezoo Islami for her project, “Infinite Freedom: Science and Mathematics in the Iranian Diaspora”

Author: Persis Karim
January 22, 2024

The Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies is pleased to announce that Dr. Arezoo Islami, Assistant Professor in SF State's Department of Philosophy has been awarded the Center’s 2024 Faculty Research Fellowship. Professor Islami’s research focuses on math, science and philosophy pedagogy in the Iranian diaspora by tracing how academics in North America, who have come from Iran, approach their pedagogy and cultural practice in the US university context. “Like an urchin diver, I am going to dive into deep waters to find the treasures that Iranian mathematicians and scientists have brought to the US in the past few decades. I will study the unique pedagogy and philosophy that has lit up classrooms and educated the finest scientists and mathematicians who have been equipped with the gift of excellent teaching. I'm honored to be interviewing, reading, researching and writing about this understudied group whose contributions to education and academic research in the US have been significant.” 
The core of Dr. Islami's own philosophy of teaching in her field is informed by her own background. “Once upon a time, in Iranian culture, the wise, the knower, the scientist, the artist and the mystic were all embodied in one person,” she says. Clarifying her vision for teaching and research in mathematics, she adds, “their poetry was infused with art, their mathematics was infused with poetry and their art and all they did brought them closer to knowing the unknown, the beyond, the beautiful. My great grandfather was such a polymath. He was an architect, astronomer, poet, mathematician and mystic all at once.” Dr. Islami says that in Iran there were historically no divisions between the beauty of mathematics, and the beauty of a poem. “Where immediate senses reached their limits, the poetic, mystic and mathematical intuitions helped them reach for otherwise unreachable heights,” she says.
Dr. Islami will interview colleagues at several institutions and will explore the influence of mathematics, philosophy and science training they received in Iran and the ways they approach their pedagogical practice in the US. “I am thrilled to have the time and support of the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies to explore an area of research that touches many young people pursuing math and science as part of their study,” says Dr. Islami. “So often we do not get the chance to think about the diaspora context as it relates to teaching and pedagogy, and the unique contributions that are being made by Iranians living outside of Iran,” she adds. Dr. Islami, who received her Ph.D. at Stanford University in Philosophy in 2016 and came to SF State after her postdoctoral fellowship in 2018. She will have a course release to pursue her project during the spring 2024 semester and intends to develop this research into a journal article and several conference presentations.  
We look forward to following the development of Dr. Islami's project, and she will be sharing more with us throughout her semester as a Center Fellow.