Mehraban, Saeed and Alma, we will remember you

Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A young woman lays a wreath of flowers on a memorial table

Mehraban Badiei Ardestani, Saeed Kadkhodazadeh Kashani and Alma Oladi had bright futures full of promise. Their loss leaves a great void in the University community.

The University of Ottawa is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of three of our community members. On January 8, 2020, Mehraban Badiei Ardestani, Saeed Kadkhodazadeh Kashani and Alma Oladi died on Flight PS752. They were returning to Canada to continue their studies at uOttawa after visiting their families in Iran over the holidays.

“We are heartbroken. They will be greatly missed,” says Jacques Frémont, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Ottawa, who remarks on the courage of Mehraban, Saeed and Alma, and their commitment to knowledge creation and building a better world.

All three had generous hearts, brilliant minds, big dreams and promising futures. Their sudden passing leaves many friends, loved ones, colleagues and classmates in mourning.

Portrait of Mehraban Badiei Ardestani

Born in Iran, Mehraban completed high school in Toronto before beginning a bachelor’s degree in September 2019 at the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

“Although she had just started her studies, she had already begun to make her presence felt as a deeply caring and engaged young woman,” says Lucie Thibault, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Mehraban was a devoted volunteer, heavily involved in the community. She was a member of uOttawa’s Multiple Sclerosis Club, a philanthropic group that promotes policies in support of people with MS, and a part of the Iranian Student Association, where she helped high school students with their transition to the University. She also volunteered for the organization Let's Talk Science.

Her professors described her as a brilliant student, diligent, considerate and always in good spirits. She certainly would have had a meaningful career and played an important role in the health care field.

She will be remembered for her selflessness and friendly smile. In fact, the name “Mehraban” means “kind” in Persian — a wonderful description of her personality according to her peers. To know Mehraban was to know an intelligent, cheerful, generous and friendly young woman.

Portrait of Saeed Kadkhodazadeh Kashani

From Tehran, Saeed completed a master’s at the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Research Centre of Iran in 2015, before moving to Ottawa in 2017 to begin a doctorate in chemistry with the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences of the Faculty of Science.

Saeed has been described by those close to him as an outstanding, approachable friend who loved life and inspired happiness around him. He was a talented student, and a young scientist who had already made a large contribution to the advancement of knowledge in chemistry. He was interested in reducing the creation and use of harmful substances in the production of pharmaceuticals and chemicals, and was widely respected for his expertise, both in the scientific community and the pharmaceutical industry. He had already published two articles in peer-reviewed journals and was about to publish a third.

While Saeed was a very hard-working young researcher who was expected to complete his doctorate next year, he still managed to be there for those around him, both as a friend and a professional colleague.

“He was a caring and supportive friend, always motivated and always energetic. He liked to talk about his big plans for the future,” recalls his friend Andisheh (Andi) Zahedi.

He was also appreciated by his colleagues in the Newman Lab. “He was more than a colleague to us — he was our brother. We had many fun moments together. It’s hard to imagine the lab without his laughter, his impressions and his singing,” says fellow lab member Eric Isbrandt.

He was an outstanding mentor for hundreds of students, both in the lab and in his teaching assistantships.

Saeed was a smart, likeable and charming young man who touched the hearts of many, spanning well beyond the campus.

Portrait of Alma Oladi

Alma had just completed her first year of a doctorate in mathematics and statistics at the Faculty of Science. She was highly respected as a young scientist — energetic, intelligent and innovative. She had begun her doctoral studies at the University of Ottawa after receiving a master’s in mathematics from the Amirkabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic) in Iran, where she grew up. She had returned to Iran over the winter break to celebrate her 27th birthday with her family, who she dearly missed.

Alma was working in the Sankoff Laboratory, alongside a group whose expertise includes the study of genes and genomes using a mathematical approach. 

“She really touched our hearts. Her absence leaves an incredible void,” says her friend and lab-mate Mona Meghdari, who shared a strong bond with Alma. “She was a genuinely kind-hearted person, a rare gem. Alma was always present and supportive, more like a sister to me.”

Smart, approachable, generous and always smiling, Alma was valued for her skills and patience as a teaching assistant, and beloved by the students who had taken her course in the fall. She would even keep additional, unpaid office hours to help her students.

Alma was an inspiration to all. Many recall her radiant smile and her kindness.

Memories of these three students will remain etched in our memories and in our hearts. Their unexpected deaths are a major loss for the University and scientific communities.

A Memorial Scholarship Fund was created in honour of Mehraban, Saeed and Alma. The Iranian Students Memorial Scholarship will be awarded annually to Iranian students at the University of Ottawa who demonstrate financial need.

We offer our deepest condolences to the friends and families of Mehraban, Saeed and Alma.

Support is important in such difficult times. Feel free to contact any of the following services:

Good2talk (bilingual 24/7 hotline): 1-866-925-5454
Mental Health and Wellness support

Faculty and staff
Employee and Family Assistance Program(EFAP, 24/7): 1-844-880-9143

Protection Services (24/7): 613-562-5411 (on campus: ext. 5411)
Emergency services: 911

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