To say that Sargodha University has simply surpassed expectations would be an understatement.
Since its inception in 2006, it has steadfastly pushed all limits, vaulted over all hurdles, in pursuit of advancement. Today, it is no longer just an educational campus. It is a hospital, an industrial bottled water provider, and, perhaps most importantly, a hub of innovation – the first financially autonomous public-sector university where students believe in a ‘knowledge-based economy’.
In fact, some even go so far as to say that Sargodha University has specialised in the production of miracles.
One such ‘miracle’ is Khush Aab – the bottled water, much cheaper than the brands available in the market, treated at the university’s reverse osmosis water plant. It created quite a stir, so much so that a leading mineral water company felt compelled to throw forth its might in an attempt to stop distribution amongst the locals. Fortunately, the experts finally stepped in and gave Sargodha’s plant a clean chit, declaring it as meeting industry standards.
And, luckily, this isn’t the first – or last – of the institution’s remarkable feats.
A scientist at the university discovered a new version of the paracetamol tablet that is not injurious to the liver, while another researcher, Dr Shazia, revealed that gelatin, previously only produced from bones, can also be produced from the ispaghula husk.
Furthermore, another young scientist, Dr Amir Ali, introduced a variety of sugarcane that will endure against diseases that afflict plants, virtually doubling production. Dr Ali also discovered a sugar alternative from the stevia plant that is 300% sweeter than sugar, has zero calories, and also has no side effects.
Impressively still, Maryam Khan, a student of pharmacy, determined that 80% of all cardiac problems are due to old cooking oil. Consequently, she developed a herbal formulation which has successfully enhanced the shelf-life of oils to one calendar year, without any loss in nutritional attributes. A paper she wrote on the subject was published in an international journal, garnering wide acclaim.
Extraordinarily, all these projects are supported by students’ work.
“If such students were in America, they would have been showered in gold,” says Sargodha University Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Mohammad Akram Chaudhry. “We train our students so that they may be able to convert their knowledge into business. We believe in producing employers, not employees.”
In the same vein, the University Medical and Diagnostic Centre and Model Pharmacy, now fully functional, treats inhabitants from the region for nominal fees. Barring just four, all tests conducted at Shaukat Khanum and Aga Khan are also being conducted at the university’s laboratory. Additionally, besides pharmacy counseling, standard medicines are readily available for cheaper rates.
Dr Chaudhry says the achievements of the students must be acknowledged. He says he brought these projects – especially Maryam Khan’s – to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s attention, but has not received a response. There have been no accolades, no recognition.
And yet, the students and staff stand undeterred.
Fully aware of the significant contribution to science, Sargodha University will apply for international rankings next year. It already boasts 210 PhDs, with the number climbing by the year, and it proudly stands at number seven in the Higher Education Commission’s ranking list.
With all this talent, and all this determination, it seems that the best is yet to come.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2013.
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