Jan. 17, 2012 — -- Approximately 1,300 Iranian university students have applied to switch their majors to the field of nuclear sciences following the assassination of a top nuclear expert in Iran, a government official reportedly said late Monday.
"Three hundred talented students at Sharif University and about a thousand brilliant students at the country's universities have applied in recent days to change their major and start studying nuclear physics and nuclear engineering," Kamran Daneshjo, Iranian Minister of Science Research and Technology, said in a press conference Monday, according to Iran's Tehran Times.
Daneshjo's comments came five days after the assassination of 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a former graduate of Sharif University and, until his death, the deputy director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, according to Iranian media.
Roshan was killed Jan. 11 when a magnetic explosive device was slipped under his car by a motorcyclist and then detonated, according to Iranian news reports. He is the fourth Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated in the past two years. Iranian officials swiftly blamed the U.S. and Israel for having a hand in the murder. U.S. officials strongly denied any involvement and condemned the attack, while a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces wrote online, "I don't know who settled a score with the Iranian scientist, but I am certainly not shedding a tear."
Early Tuesday, Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said the country's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ordered "extra security precautions" be taken to protect Iran's current nuclear experts and engineers, according to Iranian media. A "special security task force" has already been assembled for the purpose, Rahimi said.
"Criminals who believed [they] could hinder Iran's progress by conducting terrorist acts should know that such actions could never discourage the Iranian nation from moving towards further prosperity," Ahmadinejad said, as paraphrased by Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency. Ahmadinejad made the remarks at a ceremony to commemorate the "martyrs" of Iran's nuclear industry the IRNA said.
ABC News' Alexander Marquardt contributed to this report.