Graduate Study
Ph.D. Student Spotlight
Ph.D. Student Spotlight

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Naghmeh Mehraeen

As a lover of puzzles, Ph.D. candidate Naghmeh Mehraeen appreciates a challenge. Now in her second year, she hasn’t lost her sense of wonder as she continues to push herself in pursuit of discovery. 


Where are you from?  

I was born in Bandar-e Anzali and raised in Rasht--cities in the northern region of Iran. 

Where did you get your undergrad degree, and what was your major? Do you have an MS? 

I completed my undergraduate studies in civil engineering at the University of Guilan, located in my hometown. Following that, I pursued a master's degree in geotechnical engineering at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran. 

What attracted you to engineering? 

My passion for mathematics and the wonder of how to construct things were the reasons behind my decision to pursue engineering, particularly civil engineering. 

What attracted you to pursue a Ph.D. in your specialty area? 

During my master’s program, I engaged in research-based studies and found myself completely drawn into the research process. There's just something incredibly rewarding about putting in the effort, experimenting, and finally discovering the results. It’s like solving a puzzle that you’ve been working on for days, and that feeling is addictive. 

After graduating, I took a job in industry for about a year. While it was a valuable experience and I learned a lot, I couldn’t shake off the excitement I felt during my research. It made me realize that I’m truly passionate about delving into novel ideas, pushing boundaries, and exploring uncharted territories within my field. That's where I thrive and where I want to focus my efforts moving forward. 

How do you explain your thesis research to a non-scientist? 

My research is about investigating how extreme conditions, especially drastic changes in temperature, affect the behavior of granular soils. What is fascinating about this topic is that it’s not just limited to Earth but can also be extended to extraterrestrial environments like the Moon and Mars. By studying how these soils react to temperature fluctuations, we gain insights into their properties and behaviors in extreme environments, which could have significant implications for various fields such as construction, planetary exploration, and habitat design for future missions to celestial bodies. 

What attracted you to NU? 

NU perfectly resonates with my future goals and aspirations. Its environment is incredibly conducive to my ambitions. It boasts outstanding professors who are experts in their fields, offering invaluable guidance and mentorship. I was particularly interested in working with Professor Rotta Loria due to his expertise in geomechanics. His research in this area aligns perfectly with my academic interests and career aspirations. Additionally, NU offers state-of-the-art facilities that further cutting-edge research and innovation. These resources will undoubtedly support my academic and professional journey, enabling me to thrive and make significant contributions in my chosen field. Moreover, NU’s great location near Chicago adds to its appeal. 

What has been the highlight of your time at NU and CEE? 

The most enriching aspect of my journey at NU and within the CEE department has undoubtedly been the chance to immerse myself in a highly collaborative and diverse research environment. Here, I’ve had the privilege of engaging with individuals from various backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives, which has profoundly broadened my horizons and enriched my academic experience. 

What has been the most challenging aspect of your graduate school experience?

The challenge of being a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. lies in the necessity to continuously generate novel ideas and thoroughly explore them from every angle. However, this task becomes much more manageable with the guidance and mentorship of a supportive advisor. A good mentor can offer invaluable insights, feedback, and encouragement, which are crucial for navigating the complexities of doctoral research. I am fortunate to have an advisor who possesses these qualities, making my journey smoother and more rewarding. 

Moreover, the Ph.D. journey demands patience and perseverance. It's essential to remain resilient and not get discouraged when progress seems slow, or obstacles arise. It's often necessary to try every possible solution, experiment, and approach until a breakthrough is achieved. Embracing the ups and downs of the research process is an integral part of Ph.D. life and staying committed to journey ultimately leads to the fulfillment of academic and personal goals. 

Can you tell us about your experience being mentored or mentoring others? 

Teaching others is an incredibly effective way to deepen and solidify one’s own understanding of a subject. So far, I have been a TA for a course within CEE department. This experience proved to be invaluable in enriching my knowledge base, as explaining concepts to students encouraged me to revisit and reinforce my own understanding. 

Moreover, being a TA wasn’t only about enhancing my own learning; it also allowed me to improve my mentorship skills. Guiding students through their coursework, answering their questions, and offering support not only benefited them, but also helped me develop as a mentor. These interactions challenged me to communicate complex ideas effectively, adapt to different learning styles, and cultivate patience and empathy, which equipped me with valuable skills that will serve me well in my future career endeavors. 

What are your interests or hobbies outside of your research? 

My greatest passion lies in dancing. It all began when I joined the NU Tango Club, where I discovered the mesmerizing world of tango. Over time, my dedication and enthusiasm for Tango led me to become a board member of the club, allowing me to further immerse myself in the vibrant dance community and share my love for tango with others. 

Outside of dancing, I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my friends and traveling.