media release

New citizen celebrates Canadian PhD

June 09, 2014

Maryam Maleki,
Dixon Tam, SFU media relations, 778.782.8742,


When Maryam Maleki convocates on June 13, she’ll be celebrating her PhD in human-computer interaction—as a new Canadian citizen.

For the Burnaby resident, who emigrated from Iran in 2006, these two milestones are dreams come true.

She arrived in Canada with a master’s degree in architecture and a desire to continue her education in a way that wasn’t available to her in Iran.

“You can’t imagine the difference between Canada and Iran—the opportunities we have here, the support we have as educated women interested in education, the respect we receive and the equality,” she says emotionally. “I’m extremely happy and grateful to be here.”

Maleki has spent the past six-and-a-half years studying human-computer interaction in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology under the supervision of professor Rob Woodbury.

For her PhD, she developed a prototype computer-aided design (CAD) programming interface. It has features that make it easier for architects to write the programs they need for creating complex geometries and exploring design alternatives.

Her research was partly funded by a three-year $63,000 post-graduate scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

“It was really, really great to have that support,” she says. “I understand the value because where I come from, this doesn’t exist.”

Woodbury says Maleki is among the very best of the many students he has supervised. Two of her academic papers were recently accepted for two prestigious industry conferences.

Last fall, she landed an internship with Autodesk, a world leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software. Using methods she developed during her PhD research, she worked with research scientists in Autodesk’s Toronto office to create new visual simulation software that enables architects to more easily create simulations as part of their design process.

This summer, she’ll begin a second internship at Autodesk’s San Francisco office.

When that’s complete, she’ll be looking for further research projects in her field.

“With my background in architecture and my knowledge of human-computer interaction research, I believe I have the right expertise to research and create design-support tools.”

To learn more about Maleki’s research:

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.


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