'She had a bright future': Woman killed in Tehran plane crash was researcher for U of Sask. program

A woman who died in the plane crash outside of Tehran on Wednesday had connections with the University of Saskatchewan through her research as a graduate student. 

PhD student Marzieh Foroutan was contributing research to Sask.-based Global Water Futures program

Marzieh Foroutan was a PhD student whose research was funded by a Saskatchewan-based water science program. (University of Waterloo)

A woman who died in a plane crash that killed 176 people near Tehran on Wednesday had connections with the University of Saskatchewan through her research as a graduate student. 

Marzieh Foroutan, known as Mari, was a PhD student in the faculty of environment at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, but her research was funded by the U of S-led Global Water Futures program. 

John Pomeroy, the director of the program, said he was most familiar with Foroutan through her work as a scientist. 

"It's always particularly sad when you see a horrific event like that impacting the students and someone young in their life with much to contribute to the world," said Pomeroy. 

"It's horrific in every sense but it makes it a little bit moreso in this way."

Foroutan was killed when the Ukrainian International Airlines plane crashed shortly after takeoff on Wednesday, killing everyone aboard.

Most of the victims were connecting to Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday, including 63 Canadian citizens. 

Pomeroy said he became worried as soon as he heard about the crash.

"Iran has produced a large number of excellent water resource engineers over the years, so there's a higher likelihood [the passengers] would be in the water field," he said. 

Foroutan was one of 176 people killed in the plane crash in Iran. (University of Waterloo)

Foroutan had previously studied at the University of Calgary and Shiraz University in Iran.

Her work for Global Water Futures involved measuring radiation reflected from the Earth using sensors on drones, known as "hyper-spectral remote sensing."

The method can be used to detect the health of crops, and can also detect algae blooms and help determine water quality, which Pomeroy said is of interest to Global Water Futures. 

He released a statement from Global Water Futures on Thursday. In the statement, Foroutan's supervisor at Waterloo, Prof. Claude Duguay, described her as kind-hearted, passionate and a brilliant researcher. 

"She had a bright future ahead of her," the statement said. "She will be truly missed."

Shawn Marshall is a professor in the department of geography at the University of Calgary, who recently published a paper with Foroutan.

He told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo he remembers her as both a student and a friend.

"Mari was … the most amazing, intellectual, sweet person that I know in so many ways," said Marshall.

"I knew she was capable of amazing, creative things and would have done amazing, creative things. So it is a loss for Canada."

Prime Minister Trudeau said Thursday that Canada has intelligence that now indicates the plane was shot down by a missile, which he added may have been unintentional.

The University of Waterloo is holding a memorial for Foroutan on Friday. 


  • A previous version of this story said Foroutan's research was funded by the U of S Global Water Futures program. In fact Global Water Futures is federally-funded and led by the U of S.
    Jan 10, 2020 12:17 PM CT