C2CIIT: Pakistan has the exact level of expert human resource and scientific activity in the field of nanotechnology. A focused national strategy and sustainable funding can make Pakistan one of the leaders in this sector.

Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois and Founder and President of NanoSi Advanced Technology, Inc. Dr. Munir H. Nayfeh. Dr. Nayfeh, along with Executive Director, Centre for Nanoscale Science and Technology, and Research Faculty, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Illinois, Dr. Irfan Ahmad and Associate Professor and Director of Medical Physics Programme, Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, Dr. Bulent Aydogan were invited by COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) to deliver lectures on nanotechnology research and entrepreneurship with special focus on cancer nanomedicine has expressed these views about talent in Pakistan.

Aim of a visit was to motivate and guide faculty and students at COMSATS and to provide feedback to campus administration and Federal Ministry of Science and Technology on strategic initiatives to help develop the next generation of science and engineering workforce in Pakistan.

“My mother was uneducated but she always wanted her children to get the highest degree possible and both my parents supported us in whatever way possible to achieve our dreams,” Dr. Nayfeh recalled. A Palestinian by origin was brought up in a conflict area by a mother who did not know how to read and write.

He has observed some decent amount of research outcome from existing setups despite the lack of resources. He stated that they found faculty members and researchers need more and more funds. “I don’t blame them as I am also looking for more and more fund even in America. This is a positive thing which shows that these setups are alive and want to do more”, he added.

Sharing his experience of visiting countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Emirates, Libya, Algeria and Tunisia, Dr. Nayfeh said that “Sometimes, they had more instrumentations than researchers. Again, a lot of instrumentation without ample resources is not enough. On contrary, it might be a disadvantage.” he said.

Dr. Nayfeh is impressed with a number of women researchers and students in Pakistan. “In Tunisia and Algeria, there were a decent number of women in this field but Pakistan has most and there are more publications coming out of Pakistan as compared to other developing countries.”

He said that they currently signed an agreement of cooperation with COMSATS, “The current agreement has been successful and secured positions for more than a hundred advanced graduate students to take their degrees from the University of Illinois. At this time, there is around 25 degree seeking researchers from Pakistan in Illinois University. We believe that it is time to move to phase where we get to do research together.”

He said that another model would want to have students who could have involvement in research in Illinois University and research here. “They can also have two advisers, one in Illinois and other in Pakistan. This model could be elevated to have a joint degree.”

Visiting groups met and briefed top officials in Pakistan about their plans including President and Federal Secretary for Science and Technology Fazal Abbas Maken. “We wish to know that that we are on the same page. All of them agreed to lend our support and pledged to do best to help make this happen at all levels whether it is about support, open channels, funding and financial support etc. to take initiative to the next level.”

About nanotechnology in Pakistan, he said, “We would like to see if we can strengthen research in prototyping and device construction of low cost devices, for example, solar devices and water filtration. Particularly, solar devices are more useful in remote and poverty-stricken areas. These devices are not particularly expensive. He said, “Medical is hardest in the world so far. Medical applications require all sorts of testing with humans which involve a long list of approvals”.

“Our themes for the last number of years, including Dr. Irfan from Pakistan, Dr. Buland from Turkey, myself and few other scientists from different disciplines and different origins, are the same areas. We have visited OIC and talked to General Secretary to determine how an activity can be generated which would be helpful for the region. Fortunately, this idea has also found some encouragement and acceptance by Pakistan and Pakistan as a country could spearhead this activity.”

Dr. Nayfeh suggested that it could take some time but elements are there. If science and technology become one of the priorities, no doubt it can happen.

He said that funding is an important issue but it is not the only issue. “Vision, national strategy, will to take next step and guidance are equally important. In Pakistan, we think that two things might be lacking. One is generous funding as in the beginning of any scientific activity, you might think it is a black hole and money is going to waste but when the pipe starts to flow, it comes like rain coming down and everyone benefits. A lot of funds are mandatory. And the second thing is a national strategy. When everybody knows that is a high priority field, they chip in.

About his visit to Islamabad, he said, “Islamabad is more like a high-tech region with several universities, good hospitals, and information technology expertise. It could not be referred to as a Silicon Valley, but soon I will give a name to this scientifically advanced valley”.

Dr. Nayfeh said that nanotechnology is not the solution to all problems. “Sometimes, with research in nanotechnology, we improve existing products and sometimes we even waste money but in other instances, we might gain or producing a lot. However, we cannot let this opportunity go by without being involved in it as a country. The age of nanotechnology is effectively only 15 years. There is no more time to delay otherwise, we will be way behind.”