Iranian PhD student awarded first Flight 752 scholarship at Western

Payam Momeni, a PhD in Western University's earth sciences program was awarded the first Flight 752 Memorial Graduate Scholarship. (Photo courtesy of Western University)

An Iranian PhD student at Western University is the first recipient of the Flight 752 Memorial Graduate Scholarship.

Payam Momeni says he feels he is “carrying the torch” for the four Western students who lost their lives aboard Flight PS752 one year ago.

“We only knew these students for a few months or a few years, but their main goal was to live in peace and serve this country as their new home – which provided them great opportunities to pursue their dreams – as well as their home country Iran. I think the best thing I can do will be to live that goal.” Momeni said in a statement.

The scholarship, established with donations from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization and other community donors, supports the studies of a graduate student in science or engineering.

Momeni is an earth sciences student. His research entails hazard analysis for areas prone to tsunamis, with a goal of helping such communities come up with policies and build infrastructure to reduce loss of life and property damage.

Originally from Babol, a city north of Tehran, Momeni worked as an engineer and a teacher before pursuing his PhD at Western.

Hadis Hayatdavoudi, Ghazal Nourian, Milad Nahavandi and Sajedeh Saraeian, were graduate students in science and engineering. They were on a flight back to Canada following the winter break when the plane was shot down soon after departing Tehran airport. All 176 people on board died.

Momeni says he was friends with Nourian, they both arrived at Western in September 2019. He described her as “one of the most kind-hearted people I knew.”

The PhD student said while he feels joy at receiving the scholarship, it also reminds him how much he misses his friends.

“These students that we lost were among the few best students among hundreds of thousands of students in Iran. And among several countries that they could choose to continue their studies, they decided if they were going to leave their family and friends, they chose Canada. This beautiful country with caring people, just like home,” Momeni expressed.

The crash also prompted a chemistry scholarship at Western, in honour of Hayatdavoudi.

An additional four scholarships of $10,000, each created by the Ontario government scholarship program to honour the victims of Flight 752, will be awarded to undergraduate students at Western later in February.