Despite penury and isolation, Iran’s scientists have pursued an ambitious agenda. If sanctions end, research will blossom.

If all goes well, construction of Iran's first synchrotron, a source of brilliant x-ray light for studies of everything from biological molecules to advanced materials, will begin in 2018. The $300 million Iranian Light Source Facility is the country's biggest basic science project ever—and it is testimony to the country's determination to do science in spite of turmoil, political interference, and the vise grip of economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies to block Iran's suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons. Animated by the same spirit, an array of homegrown initiatives has flourished, despite the sanctions, in areas ranging from seismology to stem cell research. The result is a surprisingly robust scientific enterprise, as was evident when the Iranian government recently granted Science rare access to select facilities and researchers. - written by: Richard Stone

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