Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pakistan Beats India to CERN Associate Membership

"It would be embarrassing if Pakistan becomes an associate member of CERN before India", said eminent Indian scientist and Homi Bhabha Professor Bikash Sinha in early June, 2014. Well, it has happened this week. Pakistan is now an associate member of CERN, the world's largest and most prestigious center for science research.

Large Hadron Collider at CERN
Pakistan is the first Asian country and only the third in the world after Turkey and Serbia to be honored with CERN's associate membership. The status of associate member is a step before full membership. As an associate member, Pakistan  is entitled to attend open and restricted sessions of the organization.

The CERN was founded in 1953 by 12 European nations including Belgium, Denmark, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Yugoslavia. The organization was subsequently joined by Austria (1959), Spain (1961-1969, re-joined 1983), Portugal (1985), Finland (1991), Poland (1991), Czechoslovak Republic (1992), Hungary (1992), Bulgaria (1999) and Israel (2014). The Czech Republic and Slovak Republic re-joined CERN after their mutual independence in 1993. CERN now has 21 member states and Romania is a candidate to become a member state. Serbia is an associate member in the pre-stage to membership. "Observer" status allows non-member states to attend council meetings and to receive council documents, without taking part in the decision-making procedures of the organization. Over 600 institutes and universities around the world use CERN's facilities.

Pakistan's National Center for Physics (NCP) has been collaborating with CERN since 2000.  Pakistan's associate membership application was unanimously approved at a meeting of the CERN council on September 17 this year. The final approval came this week after a report of a CERN “fact-finding mission” to Pakistan in February 2014 was accepted.

CERN is leading the most high-profile effort to find "God Particle" about 300 ft below ground in a tunnel at the French-Swiss border. Buried there is a massive particle accelerator and super collider called LHC (Large Hadron Collider) run by CERN (European Organization of Nuclear Research), which has two beams of particles racing at nearly the speed of light in opposite directions and the resulting particles produced from collisions are being detected by massive detectors in the hope of experimentally finding the fundamental particle of which everything in the universe is built from: God Particle.

Dr. Hafeez Hoorani and President Musharraf

Among the world scientists working at CERN on LHC project is Professor Hafeez Hoorani of Pakistan's Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. He is one of 27 Pakistani scientists at CERN. Hoorani has acknowledged that Pakistan government's support for Pakistani scientists' serious involvement at CERN materialized only after 1999, the year former President Musharraf's government assumed power. He also gives credit to Dr. Abdus Salam, Pakistan's only Nobel Laureate, for inspiring him and his colleagues to pursue serious scientific research. Here's what Professor Hoorani says about Pakistan's involvement in LHC and CERN:

When I first came to CERN, I was mainly working on technical things but became increasingly involved in political issues. In 1999, I went back to Pakistan to set up a group working on different aspects of the LHC project. There I had to convince my people and my government to collaborate with CERN, which was rather difficult, since nobody associated science with Switzerland. It is known as a place for tourism, for its watches, and nice places to visit.

However, Pakistan already had an early connection to CERN through the late Abdus Salam, the sole Nobel laureate from Pakistan in science and one of the fathers of the electroweak theory. CERN has been known to the scientific community of Pakistan since 1973 through the discovery of neutral currents which eventually led to the Nobel Prize for Salam. We are contributing much more now because of the students who worked with Salam, who know his theories and CERN, and who are now placed at highly influential positions within the government of Pakistan. They have helped and pushed Pakistan towards a very meaningful scientific collaboration with CERN. People now know that there is an organization called CERN. It took a long time to explain what CERN is about, and I brought many people here to show them, because they did not imagine CERN this way. Many people support us now which gives us hope…”

In addition to the 27 scientists, Pakistan has made material contributions to the tune of $10m. Pakistan signed an agreement with CERN which doubled the Pakistani contribution from one to two million Swiss francs. And with this new agreement Pakistan started construction of the resistive plate chambers required for the CMS muon system. While more recently, a protocol has been signed enhancing Pakistan’s total contribution to the LHC program to $10 million.

Pakistan has contributed the LHC in numerous ways including some of the following in particular:

1. Detector construction
2. Detector simulation
3. Physics analysis
4. Grid computing
5. Computational software development
6. Manufacturing of mechanical equipment
7. Alignment of the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) tracker using lasers
8. Testing of electronic equipment
9. Barrel Yoke: 35 Ton each feet made in Pakistan
10. Assembly of CF (Carbon Fiber) Fins for the Silicon Tracker’s TOB (Tracker Outer Barrel).
11. 245 of the 300 CMS chambers required were made in Islamabad.

Pakistan has had an impressive 50 per cent increase in the number of research publications during just the last two years, going up from 3,939 to 6,200. This has been the second highest increase worldwide, according to SCimago, the world's leading research database. The latest QS world rankings include 10 Pakistani universities among Asia's top 300.

Rise of research and publications at Pakistani universities began during Musharraf years when the annual budget for higher education increased from only Rs 500 million in 2000 to Rs 28 billion in 2008, to lay the foundations of the development of a strong knowledge economy, according to former education minister Dr. Ata ur Rehman. Student enrollment in universities increased from 270,000 to 900,000 and the number of universities and degree awarding institutions increased from 57 in 2000 to 137 by 2008. Government R&D spending jumped seven-fold as percentage of GDP from 0.1% of GDP in 1999 to 0.7% of GDP in 2007.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani Scientists at CERN

10 Pakistani Universities Among Asia's Top 300

Genomics and Biotech Research in Pakistan

Human Capital Growth in Pakistan

Educational Attainment in Pakistan

Pakistan Human Development in Musharraf Years

Robotics Growth in Pakistan 


Anonymous said...

Hello Riaz,

I visit your blog intermittently but with every visit, I leave with more knowledge about Pakistan. I am Indo-Canadian, brought up with staunch anti-Pakistan propaganda as a kid growing up in India, moved to Canada only to realize that Pakistanis are no different from Indians and we are bound by the same set of values and morals.

The Physicists from Pakistan deserve every bit of praise for becoming a associate member of CERN. But I do find your view to be myopic; That the scientists managed to outdo India. For India was not the only competing nation vying this membership. The physicists from Pakistan deserve more accolades than you've actually given them in this blog.

I remember a post in 2009 when you swiftly reminded many a reader of the twin hypocrisies of scientific advancement and poverty. That India's lunar mission "Chandrayaan" came from a nation with people so poor, even sub-saharan nations seemed better off! That mindless advancements in science bore no need in the face of poverty.

While I understand that you are man of many achievements, your deep rooted apathy to progress of any kind in India is quite appalling. I am hoping to reason with you; That the resilience of the nation of Pakistan in the face of adversity while remarkable need not always be compared to India.
That not every Indian is a propaganda fed hindu bigot seemingly unaware of the evils of poverty. As erstwhile siblings, We have so much to learn from each other yet we pride in the failure of others to succeed.


Riaz Haq said...

Dear Sriram:

Thank you for your comment.

Sriram: "For India was not the only competing nation vying this membership."

What I said is echoed by eminent Indian scientist and Homi Bhabha Professor Bikash Sinha. I think it;s better if India and Pakistan compete in education and science rather than in military combat.

Sriram: "your deep rooted apathy to progress of any kind in India is quite appalling"

My criticism of India's huge space spending is not motivated by "deep rooted apathy to progress of any kind in India".

To the contrary, I sincerely believe that the billions spent on space can be better utilized to make India more competitive in education with China which tops PISA test scores (while India is near the bottom) and China's 58 universities (vs just 17 Indian universities)among Asia's top 300.

Hopewins said...

Dr. Haq, you were right! Once you account for the fudge factor, Pakistan is richer than India, according to the latest Oxford Study...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed by Ishfaq Ahmad in CERN newsletter, former head of PAEC in Pakistan:

it is important to note that due to the influence of Salam, a number of high-calibre Pakistani theoretical particle physicists were trained in the latter part of the 20th century. On the other hand, Pakistan has always lagged behind in experimental particle physics due to a lack of resources. It was strongly felt by the scientists of Pakistan that a national centre for physics of very high international standards was needed. In 1994, I led a group of physicists to meet the president of Pakistan to discuss this issue, and the president very kindly approved the concept of such a centre. So in 1998, during the inauguration ceremony of the 23rd International Nathiagali Summer College on Physics and Contemporary Needs, I announced the creation of the National Centre of Physics (NCP) and invited the well-known Pakistani theoretical physicist Riazuddin to head the centre, which he kindly accepted.

The NCP is the cradle and the focal point for all CERN-related activities in Pakistan. At present, the centre is involved in a number of LHC-related activities such as detector construction, detector simulation, physics analysis and Grid computing. Several other Pakistani institutes are also collaborating with CERN indirectly through the NCP. The activities of these institutes cover areas such as software development, manufacturing of mechanical equipment, alignment of the CMS tracker using lasers, and the testing of electronic equipment.

Former CERN director-general Victor Weisskopf wrote in his book The Joy of Insight that anybody who enters CERN should be regarded as European and no longer a citizen of any nation. Now CERN is open to any scientist from anywhere in the world. Moreover, beyond its 20 European member states, CERN currently has co-operation agreements with 30 countries. Had Weisskopf been alive today, he would probably have rephrased his remark by saying that "anybody who enters CERN is a citizen of the world".

pacman said...

Riaz dont mind the hindu haters. If it were an indian blog, that first comment by indian would have been deleted by the author. Bravo to you Riaz.

Rajesh said...

My dear friend, it seems you write stories without verifying. I checked the CERN website, for the membership status. it only shows that pakistan is a non member with only 18 users as compared to India (153 users) which holds observer status (in the same league as USA, Japan and Russia).

pls check the link

Tell me, what is true ?

Riaz Haq said...

Rajesh: " it seems you write stories without verifying"

The CERN web page you offered was last updated in January 2014 and decision to accept Pakistan as associate member came in June this year.

Abdul Mojeeb Tawqeer said...

Dear Mr. Riaz your research work and posts are very lucrative and knowledgeable for us. thank u for updating us. we are far away from our countries achievement due to our main stream media priorities designs.

A.M Tawqeer

Riaz Haq said...

The world's top particle physics lab has admitted Pakistan as an associate member, a year after Israel was voted in as a full member.

Rolf Heuer, director general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, says he signed a document Friday in Islamabad in the presence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that admits Pakistan if the government ratifies the associate membership.

Heuer said in a statement Friday that Pakistan has been "a strong participant" in CERN research since the 1990s ? and its inclusion in the lab's community serves other important purposes as well.

"Bringing nations together in a peaceful quest for knowledge and education is one of the most important missions of CERN," he said.

The status upgrade means nuclear-armed Pakistan will have more access and say in the research, and that it will be able to bid for contracts, but also that it must contribute more financially each year to the facility.

Pakistan and CERN signed a cooperation agreement in 1994 through which the nation has contributed to the lab's major experiments and become involved in developing CERN's particle accelerator.

Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1988. It routinely test-fires what it claims are indigenously developed missiles.

Last December, the governing council of CERN unanimously voted to accept Israel as the 21st full member, making it the first non-European country to achieve that status. Israel had gained observer status in 1991 and then became an associate member in 2011.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Haq,

Read this Article and find the contribution of India

India is major Contributor in CERN ,LHC Project

"The main Indian hardware contribution is superconducting sextupole and decapole spool pieces amounting to half of the total LHC requirement for such corrector magnet equipment. In addition, India will supply LHC magnet support jacks and quench heater power supplies.

Circuit breakers are being supplied by Russia, but India remains responsible for the necessary electronics. In addition, India is carrying out several programming and documentation projects."


Riaz Haq said...

It's the birthday of Abdus Salam, who was born in 1926 in Jhang, a rural community in what is now Pakistan. Salam attended Punjab University and then Cambridge University, where he earned a PhD in 1952. In the 1960s, he and, independently, Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg identified a symmetry that is shared in a class of field theories by the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces. The symmetry implied that the two forces are really different manifestations of the same force, which Salam named electroweak. Glashow, Salam and Weinberg's unification also predicted the existence of two bosons: W, which mediates beta decay, and Z, which mediates the transfer of momentum, spin and energy in neutrino scattering. In 1973 a clear manifestation of the Z was discovered in CERN's Gargamelle bubble chamber. Six years later Glashow, Salam and Weinberg were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Salam was also a founder of the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, which has supported the studies of physicists from the developing world since its founding in 1964.

Riaz Haq said...

#China to build $1.5 billion science park in #Islamabad #Pakistan …

China on Wednesday agreed to invest $1.5 billion to set up Pakistan-China Science Park in Islamabad.

Minister for Science and Technology Rana Tanvir Hussain - who is on a visit to China - signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with his Chinese counterpart UN Urmaqi. He also invited the Chinese investers to visit Islamabad in next month to select location for construction of the Park by March 2016. He expressed his gratitude for huge investment in Pakistan.

The minister said that Pakistan and China had a lot to share with each other in term of technology, expertise and business. “We are looking to strengthen our mutual ties on economic as well as technological fronts,” he said, adding that this project would prove to be a link of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It would bring prosperity to the people of both sides.

Riaz Haq said...

Nergis Mavalvala: #Pakistani #American #MIT prof from #Karachi, only woman in #LIGO that detects #gravitationalwaves

Mavalvala did her BA at Wellesley College in Physics and Astronomy in 1990 and a Ph.D in physics in 1997 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Before that, she was a postdoctoral associate and then a research scientist at California Institute of Technology (Caltech), working on the Laser Interferometric Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO).

She has been involved with LIGO since her early years in graduate school at MIT and her primary research has been in instrument development for interferometric gravitational-wave detectors.

She also received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Award in 2010.

Mavalvala received her early education from the Convent of Jesus and Mary school in Karachi, an administration official from the educational institute confirmed to

She later moved to the United States as a teenager to attend Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where she is said to have a natural gift for being comfortable in her own skin, according to an article published on the website.

“Even when Nergis was a freshman, she struck me as fearless, with a refreshing can-do attitude,” says Robert Berg, a professor of physics at Wellesley.

"I used to borrow tools and parts from the bike-repair man across the street to fix my bike,” Mavalvala says.
In an earlier report, Mavalvala's colleague observed that while many professors would like to treat students as colleagues, most students don’t respond as equals. From the first day, Mavalvala acted and worked like an equal. She helped Berg, who at the time was new to the faculty, set up a laser and transform an empty room into a lab. Before she graduated in 1990, Berg and Mavalvala had co-authored a paper in Physical Review B: Condensed Matter.

Her parents encouraged academic excellence. She was by temperament very hands-on. “I used to borrow tools and parts from the bike-repair man across the street to fix my bike,” she says. Her mother objected to the grease stains, “but my parents never said such skills were off-limits to me or my sister.”

So she grew up without stereotypical gender roles. Once in the United States, she did not feel bound by US social norms, she recalls.

Her practical skills stood her in good stead in 1991, when she was scouting for a research group to join after her first year as a graduate student at MIT. Her adviser was moving to Chicago and Mavalvala had decided not to follow him, so she needed a new adviser. She met Rainer Weiss, who worked down the hallway.

“What do you know?” Weiss asked her. She began to list the classes she had taken at the institute—but the renowned experimentalist interrupted with, “What do you know how to do?” Mavalvala ticked off her practical skills and accomplishments: machining, electronic circuitry, building a laser. Weiss took her on right away.

Mavalvala says that although it may not be immediately apparent, she is a product of good mentoring.

From the chemistry teacher in Pakistan who let her play with reagents in the lab after school to the head of the physics department at MIT, who supported her work when she joined the faculty in 2002, she has encountered several encouraging people on her journey.

Although the discovery of gravitational waves, that opens a new window for studying the cosmos, was made in September 2015, it took scientists months to confirm their data.

The researchers said they detected gravitational waves coming from two black holes - extraordinarily dense objects whose existence also was foreseen by Einstein - that orbited one another, spiraled inward and smashed together. They said the waves were the product of a collision between two black holes 30 times as massive as the Sun, located 1.3 billion light years from Earth.

Riaz Haq said...

Inside the life of #Pakistan’s first female string theorist. #Physics #Science #MIT

Tasneem Zehra Husain, Pakistan’s first female string theorist at the mere age of 26, recently published her new book Only the Longest Threads, which fictionalises major breakthroughs in physics through the minds of the people who lived in those periods of discovery, reports the MIT Technology Review Pakistan.

Husain is an eminent scientist, writer and educator who obtained her bachelor of science in mathematics and physics from Kinnaird College and a masters degree in physics from the Quaid-i-Azam University.

She was awarded a scholarship by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) to study in the field of High-Energy Physics in Trieste, Italy. Husain obtained her PhD in theoretical physics from Stockholm University, and then went on to do her post-doctoral research at Harvard University. While still a post-doc, she helped found the Lahore University of Managment Sciences (LUMS) School of Science and Engineering in Lahore, where she later taught as a faculty member.

Husain has represented Pakistan at the meeting of nobel laureates in Lindau, Germany. She has written extensively for several magazines and newspapers, including the award winning blog.

Tasneem Zehra Husain sat down with MIT Technology Review Pakistan to talk about her life, research and her aspirations for the field of theoretical Physics in the country, here is what she had to say.

A childhood surrounded by love, laughter and books
My parents were very supportive and involved in their children’s upbringing. My father is very hands-on so he would get involved in projects with us. My mother read to us since before we could even speak.

Growing up in the 80’s in Pakistan, there weren’t a lot of bookstores. There were maybe three or four like Anees book store or Iqbal book corner. They didn’t have a range of interesting things to read; only textbooks or classics were available. However, my parent’s had an extensive personal library of books at home and later my mother started the Alif Laila lending library when my brother and I were only one or two years old, so we grew up with books all around us.

Our parents would have to frequently bring home books to catalogue, so we saw them all the time and everywhere. We were encouraged to read voraciously and I think that was the main turning point for all of us.

Riaz Haq said...

Prime Minister honors the oft-overlooked Pakistani hero and Nobel prize winner, Dr Abdus Salam
Honoring the services of overlooked Pakistani hero and Nobel laureate, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has approved renaming National Centre for Physics at Quaid-i-Azam University as ‘Professor Abdus Salam Center for Physics’.

The PM has directed Ministry of Federal Education and Professional to put up a formal summary in this regard for further approval by the President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain.

Apart from renaming, the Premier has also given go ahead for granting five (5) fellowships annually to Pakistani students for PhD in the field of Physics through Higher Education Commission in reputed international universities.

The fellowship program is named as ‘Professor Abdus Salam Fellowship’.

The PM has taken this decision in recognition of the great contributions of renowned Pakistani physicist Dr Mohammad Abdus Salam who is a major stalwart in the 20th-century theoretical physics and also shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Dr. Abdus Salam was the first Pakistani to receive a Nobel Prize in science and the second from an Islamic country to receive any Nobel Prize. His remarkable achievement earned fame and prestige for the country which rightly deserves to be valued.

He was not only a creme de le creme Physicist but he also served the country as a top level science advisor to the Government of Pakistan from 1960 to 1974during which he utilized his skills to revamp the infrastructure of science in the country.

Riaz Haq said...

New #IAEA Collaborating Centre in #Pakistan for #Nuclear #Technology. Partnership with PIAES in 3 key areas: Modelling and simulations with verification and validation capabilities, experimental nuclear #engineering, and education and training.

With a cooperation agreement signed today, the IAEA has designated the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS) as an IAEA Collaborating Centre to support Member States on research, development and capacity building in the application of advanced and innovative nuclear technologies.

Islamabad-based PIAES is one of Pakistan’s leading public research university in engineering and nuclear technology and a major nuclear research facility of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of education and training for building the capacity of Member States in this field,” said IAEA Deputy Director General Mikhail Chudakov, Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, at the signing ceremony at the Agency’s Vienna headquarters. “Through this network, the Agency encourages scientific studies and cooperation across Member States, making the centres a key IAEA cooperation mechanism.”

This partnership with PIAES is based on a holistic and multidisciplinary approach in three key areas: modelling and simulations with verification and validation capabilities, experimental nuclear engineering, and education and training. Member States will strengthen their capacities in reactor technology design, nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems, and reactor numerical modelling and simulations.

“We are first and foremost a university, so academics and research and development is at the heart of what we do,” underlined Nasirmajid Mirza, Rector of PIAES. “It will be rewarding to further build and develop capacity in nuclear technology and non-electric applications of nuclear energy and teach it to those who want to learn.”

IAEA Collaborating Centres
Through the Collaborating Centres network, Member States can assist the IAEA by undertaking original research and development and training relating to nuclear science, technologies and their safe and secure applications. With the newly designated Collaborating Centre PIAES in Pakistan, there are now 43 active Collaborating Centres worldwide, with ongoing discussions in several countries to establish new Centres.

Riaz Haq said...

IAEA Collaborating Centre
Pakistan Institute of Engineering and
Applied Sciences (PIEAS)

Collaboration on
Research, development and capacity building for
multidisciplinary application of advanced and innovative
nuclear technologies
• Contribute to creation of new and support of the IAEA ongoing activities on
the advancements and innovation in reactor designs and their applications
• Develop new experiments at nuclear engineering facilities to create new
benchmark databases in support of on-going and planned IAEA
programmatic activities in reactor simulation and modelling and
multipurpose applications of advanced and innovative reactor designs, and
the IAEA HOPS part-task simulator web-platform
• Co-organize/host workshops, training courses and seminars, including
development of training materials and IAEA relevant publications
• Host researchers and IAEA fellows wishing to conduct joint research
and/or training in supporting capacity building for multidisciplinary
applications of advanced and innovative nuclear reactor systems
(electrical and non-electrical applications, hybrid energy systems, large
power reactor design and their abilities for isotope production)
• Sharing the experience of PIEAS with IAEA Member States on laboratory
experiments, numerical modelling and nuclear education
• Providing experts to IAEA in the relevant areas of work
Main Activities of the Collaboration
• Research and development in the advancements and innovation of reactor
designs and reactor numerical modelling and simulations
• Contribute to technical development, system analysis, and optimization of
nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems
• Conduct new experiments at the research facilities creating new
experimental data for the validation of computer codes for modelling of
advanced and innovative reactor designs and contribute to the IAEA
HOPS platform in the development, validation and verification of the parttask simulators
• Train professionals on advanced and innovative reactor designs with the
use of IAEA basic principle simulators and contribute to the creation of
new IAEA relevant publications
• Develop educational and training materials for hands-on capacity building
Related IAEA Projects
All projects under IAEA’s sub-programme on Technology Development for
Advanced Reactors and Non-Electric Applications (1.1.5) and specific projects
under IAEA’s sub-programmes on Research Reactors, Nuclear Knowledge
Management, and NA-Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences.
Designation period

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan-born #scientist becomes first woman & #Pakistani to head biology and medicine section at Max Planck Society, #Germany’s most prestigious research body. It has 18 #Nobel laureates to its credit, at par with the best research institutions worldwide.

KARACHI: ​Pakistan-born scientist ​​​​​​​​Asifa Akhtar has become the first international female vice president of the biology and medicine section at Germany’s prestigious Max Planck Society.

The Max Planck Society is Germany’s most successful research organisation. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide.

During her term of office, Ms Akhtar will be in charge of the institutes of the sections and will also be the contact person for the Max Planck Schools.

“My heart beats for the young scientists,” the society’s website quoted Akhtar as saying.

“Academic science is a beautiful example of integration because you have people from all over the world exchanging knowledge beyond boundaries, cultures or prejudice,” she told the society in an interview.

As the vice president, Ms Akhtar also wants to advance the issue of gender equality. “Gender equality needs to be worked on continuously. There are outstanding women in science and we should make all the efforts and use our resources to win them for the Max Planck Society,” she said.

To enable gender diversity in various career domains, she said, the society needed to be more accommodating and understanding. “If we want women to progress in science, we need to enable practical solutions such as childcare and time-sharing or home office options,” she added.

Born in Karachi, she obtained her doctorate at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London, UK, in 1997.

She then moved to Germany, where she was a Postdoctoral fellow at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg and the Adolf-Butenandt-Institute in Munich from 1998 to 2001.

Ms Akhtar was awarded the Early Career European Life Science Organisation Award in 2008, EMBO membership in 2013, and the Feldberg Prize in 2017. She was also elected as a member of the National Academy of Science Leopoldina in 2019.

Riaz Haq said...

Migration of academics: Economic development does not necessarily lead to brain drain

A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock, Germany, developed a database on international migration of academics in order to assess emigration patterns and trends for this key group of innovators. Their paper was published in PNAS on Jan. 18.

As a first step, the team produced a database that contains the number of academics who publish papers regularly, and migration flows and migration rates for all countries that include academics who published papers listed on the bibliographic database Scopus. The migration database was obtained by leveraging metadata of more than 36 million journal articles and reviews published from 1996 to 2021.

"This migration database is a major resource to advance our understanding of the migration of academics," says MPIDR Researcher Ebru Sanliturk. Data Scientist Maciej Danko adds: "While the underlying data are proprietary, our approach generates anonymized aggregate-level datasets that can be shared for noncommercial purposes and that we are making publicly available for scientific research."

MPIDR Researcher Aliakbar Akbaritabar explains how they processed the bibliographic data in order to receive information about the migration patterns of academics: "We used the metadata of the article title, name of the authors and affiliations of almost every article and review published in Scopus since 1996. We followed every single one of the roughly 17 million researchers listed in the bibliographic database through the years and noticed changes in affiliation and, by using that tactic we know how many academics left a given country every year."

The researchers' empirical analysis focused on the relationship between emigration and economic development, indicating that academic setting patterns may differ widely from population-level ones.

Previous literature has shown that, as low-income countries become richer, overall emigration rates initially rise. At a certain point the increase slows down and the trend reverses, with emigration rates declining.

This means that favoring economic development has the counterintuitive effect of initially increasing migration from low- and middle-income countries, rather than decreasing it.

Is this pattern also generally valid for migration of scientists?

Not really.

The researchers found that, when considering academics, the pattern is the opposite: in low- and middle-income countries, emigration rates decrease as the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita increases. Then, starting from around 25,000 US Dollars in GDP, the trend reverses and emigration propensity increases as countries get richer.

MPIDR Director Emilio Zagheni adds, "Academics are a crucial group of innovators whose work has relevant economic effects. We showed that their propensity to emigrate does not immediately increase with economic development—indeed it decreases until a high-income turning point and then increases. This implies that increasing economic development does not necessarily lead to an academic brain drain in low- and middle-income countries."

Unveiling these and related patterns, and addressing big scientific questions with societal implications, was possible only because of painstaking work in preparing this new global database of migration of academics. "We are putting the final touches on an even more comprehensive database, the Scholarly Migration Database, which will be released on its own website soon," says software developer Tom Theile.

Riaz Haq said...

Top European Research Labs Select Three teams of Secondary school students-- One Each Netherlands, Pakistan and the US--For Own Accelerator Beam Experiments at CERN and DESY

Geneva and Hamburg, 28 June 2023. In 2023, for the second time in the history of the Beamline for Schools competition, the evaluation committee selected three winning teams. The team “Myriad Magnets” from the Philips Exeter Academy, in Exeter, United States, and the team “Particular Perspective”, which brings together pupils from the Islamabad College for Boys, the Supernova School in Islamabad, the Cadet College in Hasanabdal, the Siddeeq Public School in Rawalpindi and the Cedar College in Karachi, Pakistan, will travel to CERN, Geneva, in September 2023 to perform the experiments that they proposed. The team “Wire Wizards” from the Augustinianum school in Eindhoven, Netherlands, will be hosted at DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron in Hamburg, Germany) to carry out its experiment.

Beamline for Schools (BL4S) is a physics competition open to secondary school pupils from all around the world. The participants are invited to prepare a proposal for a physics experiment that can be undertaken at the beamline of a particle accelerator. A beamline is a facility that provides high-energy fluxes of subatomic particles that can be used to conduct experiments in different fields, including fundamental physics, material science and medicine.

“Congratulations to this year’s winners – may they have good beams, collect interesting data and generally have the time of their lives,” says Christoph Rembser, a CERN physicist at the ATLAS experiment and one of the founders of Beamline for Schools. “Every year I am astonished by how many young people submit very creative, interesting proposals. In 2014, we weren’t sure at all whether this competition would work. Ten years and 16 000 participants later, I am proud to say that it is obviously a resounding success.”

The fruitful collaboration between CERN and DESY started in 2019 during the shutdown period of the CERN accelerators. This year, the German laboratory will host its fifth team of winners.


The Pakistan team “Particular Perspective” will measure in detail the beam composition of the T10 beamline of the CERN Proton Synchrotron accelerator. The experiment set-up they designed will make it possible to differentiate between different particle species and measure their intensity.

“I am grateful to BL4S for having provided me with an opportunity to represent my country, Pakistan, and its budding community of aspiring physicists. This is a chance for us to experience physics at the highest level and will inspire people with interests similar to ours to reach greater heights,” says Muhammad Salman Tarar from the “Particular Perspective” team.


The “Wire Wizards” team’s experiment focuses on detector development. The Dutch students designed and built a multi-wire proportional chamber (MWPC), a gas detector able to measure the position of a particle interacting with it, and they plan to characterise it using the electron beam available at DESY.

“The BL4S competition provides us with a unique educational experience that will be a highlight in our time as students,” says Leon Verreijt from the “Wire Wizards” team.

The winners have been selected by a committee of CERN and DESY scientists from a shortlist of 27 particularly promising experiments. All the teams in the shortlist will be awarded special prizes. In addition, one team will be recognised for the most creative video and 10 teams for the quality of physics outreach activities they are organising in their local communities, taking advantage of the knowledge gained by taking part in BL4S.