Pakistan has become a fertile country for research, says former federal minister for science and technology, Dr Attaur Rehman. According to him, more than 8,000 papers by the country’s researchers were published in international journals this year.
This is a huge step up from the 500 research papers that were produced in the year 2000, before the establishment of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). Given the proliferation of studies, it was only natural that the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Sciences and Technology (FUUAST), in collaboration with the HEC, organised a two-day national symposium on microbiology.
Dr Attaur Rehman, who had been invited as the chief guest, said that the amount of research emanating from Pakistan had been growing by 20 per cent each year.
Prof. Seher Afshan, an assistant professor at FUUAST’s microbiology department and the event’s coordinator, told The Express Tribune that it had been organised to provide a platform for students and experts to share their research work and findings. “Another aim is to spread awareness about the importance and applications of microbiology in our daily lives,” she said. “There are many areas where such knowledge can help us answer everyday questions on health and hygiene, including prevention from diseases.”
The symposium comprises panel discussions, plenary lectures, poster sessions and presentation of research papers. On Wednesday, the first day of the event, people from all across the country appeared enthusiastic on sharing knowledge on topics as diverse as bio-fertilisers for agricultural sustainability to bioreactors for wastewater treatment and bioinformatics.
The event attracted scholars from prestigious public and private institutions, including National University of Science and Technology’s (NUST), Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Karachi University, National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Faisalabad, Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, and Punjab University, Lahore.
Prof. Afshan said that for scientific disciplines such as microbiology, students get tired of being cooped up in classrooms and fed theory - they should get hands-on practice, but public-sector institutions have a long way to go.
“During lectures in classrooms, even the faculty at times feels very apologetic for not being able to offer a connection between theory and practice,” she said, adding that setting up research labs equipped with state-of-the-art technology could help Pakistan excel in the fields of virology and bacteriology.
Dr Najamus Sahar Sadaf Zaidi, a faculty member at NUST’s centre of virology and immunology, told The Express Tribune that such conferences provide an opportunity for people to collaborate with one another and share knowledge. “We have no specific forum to get to know what other researchers are working on and about their progress vis-à-vis sharing of our own research ideas and work with them.”
Her colleague, Dr Sadia Andleeb, pointed out that such events strengthen the link between the industry and academia and helps researchers think about application-based research. Dr Andleeb felt that such opportunities motivate students to move to other institutions for higher studies in search of supervisors.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2012.
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