Imaging science is a family affair

Husband, wife earn Ph.D. degrees, launch careers

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Mahnaz Mohammadi, left, and Mahdi Nezamabadi both earned Ph.D. degrees at RIT.

Mahdi Nezamabadi and Mahnaz Mohammadi were studying textile chemistry in Iran when they became interested in color science.

That led them to RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science.

“We found RIT on the Internet,” says Nezamabadi. His wife, Mahnaz, was first to apply and be accepted into the imaging science Ph.D. program. They intended to move to Rochester in fall 2001. But it was difficult to get visas.

They finally received the necessary documents and Nezamabadi, Mahnaz and their 4-year-old son Navid arrived in the U.S. on January of 2002. As that was in the middle of RIT’s winter quarter, they stayed with her sister in Albany, N.Y., and moved to Rochester in time for spring quarter.

When Mahnaz went to her first meeting with her Ph.D. adviser, Roy Berns, Nezamabadi came along. By the end of the conversation, it was clear that Nezamabadi was interested in the program as well.

“Fortunately, I could accept them both,” says Berns, the Richard S. Hunter Professor, Munsell Color Science Laboratory. “It ended up being a good call. They did very, very well.”

“We had a very good experience at RIT,” says Nezamabadi. “Everyone was very supportive.”

Their son attended day care on campus. CIS associates helped with rides until they got drivers licenses. They made friends. And “Roy Berns helped us very much.”

Still, “The first year was a little bit hard,” says Nezamabadi. For one thing, their background was in math and chemistry, while most imaging science graduate students come out of electrical engineering and physics.

Berns says they brought some new perspective because of their academic background and also as the first Ph.D. students from Iran. “They knew very little about imaging when they came,” says Berns, “but they knew color. They were excellent researchers, each with their own approach.”

Mahnaz completed her Ph.D. in Feb 2009, and Nezamabadi in May 2008. They now live in Moorestown, N.J., about halfway between their jobs. Nezamabadi and Mahnaz were hired by Dolby and DuPont in 2007 when they were still working on their theses. Mahnaz works for DuPont in the color research area, where she focuses on accuracy of color matching for Automotive Refinish Paints. Nezamabadi works in the image technology research division at the company’s facility in Pennsylvania. Dolby, well known for commercial audio, particularly movie sound, has a growing involvement in imaging technology.

Their son, now 12, is in seventh grade. He’s a good student who enjoys school.

Conversations around the dinner table often revolve around science. But it’s a bit different from when Nezamabadi and Mahnaz were students at RIT. “Most of the things that both of us are working on are confidential,” says Nezamabadi. “But, sometimes it’s helpful to get an opinion from another Ph.D.”

The need to study did not end when they left the Center for Imaging Science.

“Because of our positions, we continue to study to keep up to date,” says Nezamabadi. But working in industry is different than the university. Now, the focus of research is development of commercially viable outcomes.

But their RIT education is serving them well, Nezamabadi believes.

“I think that the Ph.D. program at RIT prepares you to do research independently.”