A Career on the Rise

Elham Mohammadrezaei

Elham Mohammadrezaei

For Elham Mohammadrezaei, visiting some of America’s most iconic buildings is thrilling.

As a graduate student studying architecture at Iowa State, Mohammadrezaei’s interest in the design of skyscrapers is not surprising. “I’m so curious to see famous projects designed by renowned architects,” said Mohammadrezaei, who is from Tehran, Iran, and came to Iowa State after receiving her bachelor’s degree in architecture engineering from Iran University of Science and Technology.

Not only has she traveled to famous buildings in Pennsylvania, Missouri and California, last year she had the opportunity to draw some of Chicago’s tallest buildings as a research assistant for Iowa State’s Tom Leslie, a Morrill Professor and the inaugural holder of the College of Design's first endowed faculty position, the Pickard Chilton Professorship in Architecture, which he held from 2011 to 2019.

Leslie’s research includes studying the design and structure of Chicago’s skyscrapers, and he is currently focused on those built between 1934 and 1980. Funds from the professorship allowed him to hire graduate research assistants to join him in his work.

Referencing original blueprints, some of which were hand drawn, Mohammadrezaei developed computer models and renderings of buildings including the Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, and the John Hancock Center. Through this work, the research team gained a better understanding of the architect’s approach to the projects.

Being a graduate assistant not only allowed Mohammadrezaei to cover expenses, it enriched her learning. “Research assistantships give you the opportunity to learn from a professional,” she explains. “I’m seeing how to develop a process, how to fix issues, how to present the things you’ve done in every stage of the work and how to handle a team.”

In addition, she had the added value of having a supervisor who was an educator. “You have a professor as an adviser and you can ask them whatever you don’t know and get help from them.” She is putting this experience to work during her summer internship at Paul Davis Architects in Los Angeles, California. After she receives her master’s degree in architecture, Mohammadrezaei plans to work as an architect and then pursue a doctorate – possibly holding a professorship herself someday.