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Students at FIU protest President Donald Trump's executive order barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the country during a rally on Feb. 1. (Cassandra Cabal / SFNS)
Students at FIU protest President Donald Trump's executive order barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the country during a rally on Feb. 1. (Cassandra Cabal / SFNS)

FIU, UM academics deal with impacts of travel ban

In Miami-Dade County, the impact of President Donald Trump’s executive order regarding the citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations may be most keenly felt on college campuses, where Ph.D. candidates and professors are scrambling to continue their research in the aftermath of the travel ban. 

Mohammad Ali Faghihi, a professor in the college of medicine at the University of Miami, said his lab has been significantly impacted. 

I lost my postdoctoral fellow,” he said. “An expert in autism transcriptomics, who applied for a visa and had interviewed at the embassy a few days before the executive order.”

By Zue Lopez Diaz
South Florida News Service
@SFNS_NewsInstagram• Facebook 

Faghihi also lost a Ph.D. student working on treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

“Loss of him is impacting my lab both intellectually and financially,” he said.

Circumstances are so strained Faghihi said he is considering leaving the country. 

“The Muslim ban would make my life much harder, and I am thinking about relocating to Canada, Sweden or Iran,” he said. “If I cannot travel back and forth, I have to shut down my productive NIH funded research here. Furthermore, as a prominent scientist who leads a well-funded research program, I believe the Muslim ban is discriminating, humiliating and unfair.”

 Vahid Abedini, a political science Ph.D. candidate at Florida International University, said his work has also been stymied.   

“This ban has affected my life, but most importantly it has affected my research,” he said. “As a student, I am working on social changes in my country Iran.”

Abedini has been researching ways to improve relations between the U.S and Iran, and how Iranian youth view U.S policies.

 The backbone of his research is based on his journalism contacts back in Iran. To gather data, he needs to go back for fieldwork and statistical research.

“After this crisis, the result is that I cannot go out anymore,” said Abedini. “This could be the end of my research.” 

He has been working on the project for three years, and went to Iran last summer to prepare for his dissertation. However, he planned to go back this summer.

“Surveys, interviews, questionnaires,” he said. “All of it must be done for my research. But as an Iranian, I am not free to go out if I have to come back.”

In response, Iran imposed a ban on Americans, further complicating academics’ work. 

Eric Lob is a professor in the department of politics and international relations at FIU. His research has also been halted.

“I was invited to present a paper in Iran, but now due to the government’s response, no Americans can go there,” he said.

Lob said he was upset, but that compared to citizens and parents with valid visas who are not allowed into the country, it was a small inconvenience.

Mohammadreza Shafiefar, a civil engineering professor at FIU, has a more personal issue. His parents had a flight around the time of Trump’s executive order, and now have not been able to come.

“During this period of time,” he said, “I was so stressed thinking about them, I couldn’t focus on my research and my teachings.”

 

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