Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad at NUST (So I met the scientist – Part 1)

This post was published in NUST NEWS (Oct-Dec 2011, Vol. 2, Issue IV). To see the screenshot, click here. To see the NUST Science Society’s Press Corner, click here

This post is the first of my ‘So I met the Scientist’ series. To see the rest of the series, click here.

The seminar started off with the customary introduction of our guest, and his many achievements. Dr. Ishfaq proved to be relaxed and down-to-earth, preferring to sit instead of stand at the podium, and shared with the students his journey, from Punjab University in the 1950s, to the honor of being awarded first the Sitara Imtiaz, then then the Hilal-i-Imtiaz and finally, the Nishan-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan’s highest civilian decoration. Stressing that the future of science in Pakistan, and around the world, rested in the hands of today’s youth, he spoke of the passion for and dedication to one’s work. His speech was peppered with entertaining anecdotes of his life – everything from how he had to learn French in Montreal, to how he keeps in touch with his children through Skype.

Dr. Ishfaq encouraged the students to pursue both practical and theoretical work in their studies, emphasizing that it was only a mixture of both that led to a proper understanding of the subject at hand. He spoke of his experience in studying nuclear particle and quantum electrodynamics, of working on the Pakistani atomic bomb, along with nuclear weapons research programs, his experience with the IAEA, and with the Planning Commission of Pakistan.

An important issue he addressed was the stagnation of innovation in Pakistan. The development of nuclear technology was a landmark achievement in our history, one that was by no means easy. The level of hard work and determination that went into that initial project was one that has rarely been seen in Pakistan since. It is just one example of what we can do if we put our hearts and minds to it. Too often, Pakistani youth are faced with stories of failure, or inability, of incompetence. Studying at NUST, the country’s premier engineering university, each student must be aware of the immense potential they hold within themselves. There is a world of possibility. If necessity breeds invention, there is no lack of necessity here. It is time that the youth took a serious stance on the role they play in this country. Not just to show up at political rallies, and drop some votes in a ballot box – but to supplement the weak infrastructure of the country.  Innovations, patents, breakthroughs in technology – these are the things that build a country from the ground up. As a privileged few who were accepted into NUST, indeed as the privileged few who can afford a university education, it should be every student’s goal to bring a change.

            NUST is dedicated, both as a university, and as a center for on-going scientific research, to strengthening Pakistan’s education sector, by providing high-quality education, and opportunities for research work, career advancement, and training seminars, conferences, and student-activity programs. Saying that the university that has made remarkable progress in the last ten years, Dr. Ishfaq congratulated the Rector, on steering the university on a path of success.

The hall was packed with students from all across NUST – the business school, EME, as well as from the engineering schools in H-12 – eager to learn from someone who has contributed so significantly to Pakistan and to the field of physics at large. The seminar ended with a strong round of applause and refreshments – and over 300 students determined to achieve.

A handwritten note from Dr. Ishfaq himself.