"Allegedly she was arrested [when] pulled over in traffic by the authorities in Iran," said CSUN Provost Harry Hillenbrand.
The graduate student is in a Tehran prison that is known to hold political prisoners. Iranian authorities seized her video camera and equipment.
Momeni, 28, was born in the United States. She holds dual citizenship.
Momeni's professor says she had reservations about the student's travels.
"We all discussed our concerns about this project. And she, for very personal reasons, she was very determined to do this project," said assistant professor Melissa Wall, who serves on the thesis committee.
Amnesty organizations and international women's groups joined university administrators calling for her release. The State Department is investigating, but options are limited because the U.S. has no diplomatic ties with Iran.
"We're seeking additional information about this case, but we stand with all those in Iran who are working for universal human rights and justice in their country," said Robert Wood, U.S. State Department.
Meanwhile, CSUN officials are reaching out to the Iranian government. They are seeking to bridge cultural and political differences.
"We respect the people of Iran. And what we want everybody to understand is that we feel for this young person as a human being," said Hillenbrand.
Administrators have been told by a family spokesperson that Momeni has appeared before a judge. That spokesperson says it seemed that it was the intention of Iranian officials to hold her for some period of time.
The State Department stated it is working through Swiss diplomats to bring Momeni home.
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