Global acclaim

Pakistanis have been winning laurels around the world with their outstanding contributions in various fields

December 20, 2020

Pakistani professionals have been winning laurels around the world with their outstanding contributions in various fields. The latest to make it to the top is a Pakistan-born molecular biologist who is billed to receive the prestigious 2021 Leibniz Prize. Dr Asifa Akhtar has been recognised for her groundbreaking cell-biological work on mechanisms of epigenetic gene regulation. Holding a key position of Vice President at Germany’s Max Planck Society, Dr Asifa was picked as the winner by the DFG on December 10. She will be awarded the prize, which is endowed with 2.5 million euros, at a virtual ceremony on March 15, 2021.

According to a noted science journal, Dr Asifa stands out in the German scientific community. In July, she became the first international woman to be named vice-president of the Max Planck Society’s Biology and Medicine Section. Comprising 27 institutes and 7 research facilities, which investigate key aspects of living organisms, including development, perception and adaptation, the Biology and Medicine Section is one of three that form the scientific council of the Max Planck Society, Germany’s highest performing institution in the Nature Index.

A key focus for Dr Asifa in her new position is ensuring a more diverse cohort of young researchers sits at the forefront of German research. “I’m aware of the responsibility on my shoulders and I take it very seriously,” she says. “I want to show that there are role models who can push things forward,” adds the scientist who did her PhD in 1998 at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London, studying transcriptional regulation in Richard Treisman’s laboratory.

Feathers in Dr Asifa’s cap are very many. She received the European Life Science Organization award in 2008 and was elected as member of European Molecular Biology Organization in 2013 and of German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 2019. She has really made the Pakistani nation proud and been an excellent example for her compatriots.


Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2020.

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