Hamed Jafarpour, who, after graduating from Saint Petersburg Mining University, returned to his home country, shares his story. Hamed is a postdoctoral research fellow at Shiraz University. In 2021, he headed the Iranian-Russian Centre for Academic Cooperation.
An expert in the field of petroleum engineering, as Hamed calls himself, was born in the city of Shiraz. His father was a reservoir engineer; he would often talk to his son about how and where oil and gas form, how they are extracted and processed.
“I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Islamic Azad University of Omidiyeh, where I studied petroleum engineering,” he says.
“In my last year, a professor at the university – one of Iran’s most renowned academics – suggested I consider continuing my studies in Russia. He used to cooperate with Russian scientists, underwent his internships there. He was also convinced that if there is a place in the world to possess the most advanced technology, it must be Russia. After all, it produces about 10.5 million barrels of oil every day,” he adds.
“So I browsed through the list of Russian mining-engineering universities, carefully studied the programmes they were offering, and chose St. Petersburg Mining University. Soon I left for Russia to proceed with PhD studies.”
Hamed spent in Russia 6 years in total. He says the most notable difference between Russian and Iranian educational systems lies in the immediate consolidation of theoretical skills in practice.
“That is, at Mining University, with the end of a lecture, students immediately head off to laboratories to learn how to apply what they have just learnt to the real world. And at the end of each study year, they do one-month-long – or longer-lasting – internships at industry-specific organisations or in the field.”
“We don’t have so many practical classes and workshops in Iran, whilst the main focus in our universities is on theory — mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology. It is only at PhD level that lab research becomes a mandatory part of the learning process. The Russian approach is more effective as I see it — you study first and then do it yourself. Thus students can feel what it’s like to be an oil engineer, and if they are not happy with their choice, change their field of study accordingly,” Hamed adds.
When the fresh graduate returned to his home country in 2019, he decided to dedicate his career to passing on the knowledge and skills he had gained in Russia to Iranian students.
“A lot of recent research in the oil & gas industry focuses on enhancing oil recovery. Many of our fields have been developed for more than 40 years. Hence, they are gradually depleting and require rehabilitation. Therefore the topic of my PhD thesis – oil production technology involving acid treatment of carbonate reservoirs – assumes particular importance. Any field starts to produce less raw material over time, so it is crucial to study how to prevent and remove mineral deposits in the borehole equipment. By getting rid of them, we can prolong a field lifecycle and intensify the oil flow,” Hamed says.
“In Iran, I could only learn the theory of how to extract oil using acid compounds. It was different at Mining University. Thanks to the support of highly qualified scientific staff, and essential equipment and reagents on hand, I became engaged in research work. It yielded credible results, so I began writing scientific papers and publishing them in international journals. Besides, I took part in conferences in Russia and France, and even won some prizes,” he adds.
Hamed is now working in the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Shiraz University. In addition to teaching students and pursuing his own research, he is also heading the Iranian-Russian Centre for Academic Cooperation. The Mining University’s graduate aims to intensify scientific and educational cooperation between the two universities.
“Iran-Russia relations are good actually; numerous joint projects are being implemented, especially in energy, transportation, and industrial cooperation. And yet, we know very little about each other. To be honest, Iranians are often afraid of Russia. So I, for my part, inform local students and high-school graduates about the benefits of studying in Russian universities. I tell them what life in Russia is really like,” Hamed says.
“With the active development of trade, economic and political cooperation between our countries, my knowledge of Russian has become a huge advantage. It is not easy to get a job at Shiraz University. However, when the rector found out that I had studied in Russia and spoke Russian, they literally started persuading me to accept a job offer,” he adds.
Shiraz University is one of the oldest and most prestigious higher educational institutions in Iran. It has been working closely with St. Petersburg Mining University for some years now. The two universities’ teaching staff are writing joint research articles. Iranian students have on repeated occasions participated in the events organised by the first higher technical university in Russia.
A draft agreement between Shiraz and Mining universities is currently under discussion. It includes articles on student exchange programmes in Russia, visiting professorships, joint research projects, and online courses in Russian for undergraduate applicants. The agreement is expected to come into force at the start of the next academic year; then, its implementation will begin.