By Andrea Widener for Chemical & Engineering News
Almost as soon as he started college, Morteza Khaledi knew he wanted to be a professor. And he quickly decided that a doctoral degree from a U.S. university was the best path to get there.
Armed with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Pahlavi University (now Shiraz University) in Iran, Khaledi applied to several U.S. universities for graduate school. He was accepted to the University of Florida in 1978, and he has lived in the U.S. ever since. Over those four decades, he rose from student to chemistry professor to, now, dean of science at the University of Texas at Arlington.
“When I was a student, the U.S. was really dominant in science and technology areas, and I think we still have the upper hand,” he says. “But other countries have caught up.”
He worries that increased competition, amplified by the current wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the U.S., will push top international students to choose schools in Canada, Europe, Singapore, and elsewhere. “There are great talents from all over the world,” Khaledi says. “If you close the door or limit them, then it will have an impact on the research that we do.”
Much of the rest of the scientific community is worried too. With constant talk of a border wall, trade fights with China, and sanctions against Russia, immigration is at the top of many scientists’ minds worldwide.