Monday, October 2, 2023

Pakistani-Americans Rising Strength in Academia

Recent appointment of Karachi-born Irfan Siddiqui as Chairman of the Physics Department at the University of California at Berkeley highlights the growing numbers of Pakistani-Americans in the top ranks of the academia. Dr. Irfan Siddiqui is among the top US experts in quantum computing. He is also the head of Lawrence Livermore Quantum Computing Lab at UC Berkeley.  He's also one of the architects of the United States Quantum Initiative backed by industry, academia and the federal government.

Pakistani-American Professor Dr. Irfan Siddiqui, Chairman of Physics Dept at UC Berkeley

In addition to Dr. Irfan Siddiqui, there are many other high-profile Pakistani-American academics. For example, astrophysicist Dr. Nergis Mavalvala is the Dean of the School of Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).   Dr. Asad Abidi is a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Economist Dr. Asim Khwaja is Director of the Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Atif Rehman Mian is a professor of Economics, Public Policy, and Finance at Princeton University. Lina Khan was a professor at Columbia University Law School before she was named Chairperson of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by President Joseph R. Biden. Dr. Mark Humayun is a professor of ophthalmology, biomedical engineering, and integrative anatomical sciences at University of Southern California (USC). Dr. Mansoor Mohiuddin is professor of medicine and director of Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at the University of Maryland.  Dr. Adil Najam is a professor of International Relations and of Earth and Environment at Boston University. These are just a few of high-profile Pakistani-Americans currently teaching at top universities in the United States. 

As of today, Wikipedia lists 39 professors of Pakistani origin and 171 professors of Indian origin teaching at US universities.

Dr. Nergis Mavalvala (L) and Riaz Haq

As of 2019, there were 35,000 Pakistan-born STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) workers in the United States, according to the American Immigration Council. They included information technologists, software developers, engineers and scientists. These figures do not include 12,454 medical doctors from Pakistan. 

Foreign-Born STEM Workers in America. Source: American Immigration Council

Foreign-born workers make up a growing share of America's STEM workforce. As of 2019, foreign-born workers made up almost a quarter of all STEM workers in the country. This is a significant increase from 2000, when just 16.4% of the country’s STEM workforce was foreign-born. Between 2000 and 2019, the overall number of STEM workers in the United States increased by 44.5 percent, from 7.5 million to more than 10.8 million, according to American Immigration Council

India and Pakistan Among Top 10 Countries Receiving US Immigrant Visas. Source: Visual Capitalist

India topped the top 10 list of foreign-born STEM workers with 721,000, followed by China (273,000), Mexico (119,000), Vietnam (100,000), Philippines (87,000), South Korea (64,000), Canada (56,000), Taiwan (53,000), Russia (45,000) and Pakistan (35,000).  Enormous number of Indian STEM workers in the United States can at least partly be attributed to the fact that India's "body shops" have mastered the art of gaming the US temporary work visa system. Last year, Indian nationals sponsored by "body shops" like Cognizant, Infosys and TCS received 166,384 H1B visas for work in the United States. By comparison, only 1,107 Pakistanis were granted H1B visas in Fiscal Year 2022.  In addition to H1B work visas, 9,300 Indian nationals and 7,200 Pakistani nationals received immigrant visas to settle in the United States as permanent residents in 2021. 

Doctor Brain Drain. Source: Statista

In addition to 35,000 Pakistan-born STEM workers, there were 12,454 Pakistan-born and Pakistan-trained medical doctors practicing in the United States, making the South Asian nation the second largest source of medical doctors in America.  Pakistan produced 157,102 STEM graduates last year, putting it among the world's top dozen or so countries. About 43,000 of these graduates are in information technology (IT).

H1B Visas Issued in Pakistan. Source:

Every year, applicants sponsored by Indian body shops claim the lion's share of H1B visas. In 2022, Indians received 166,384 new H1B visas, accounting for nearly three quarters of all such visas issued by the US government. The figures reported as India IT exports are in fact the wages earned by millions of Indian H1B workers in the United States.  

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Vineeth said...

I'm not sure if there is anything in this for India or Pakistan to take pride in. The numbers of Indians and Pakistanis working in STEM fields in top Western universities just mean their home countries have not been able to give them opportunities in research, entrepreneurship and business in proportion to their abilities and skills. Indians often brag that many MNCs like Microsoft, Google and Adobe are led by Indians these days. But look at it another way. India does not have a Microsoft or Google. These individuals - the cream of Indian talent graduating from top Indian Universities and technical institutes like the IITs - had to migrate to the West because opportunities available in India did not meet their expectations or dreams. (And I am quite sure the situation in Pakistan with its chronic political turmoil and frequent economic meltdowns would be no better.)

Take ISRO, for example. In case anyone is under an impression that the agency's recent successes in Moon and Mars missions must be because it is staffed by IIT graduates, nothing could be farther from the truth. The current chairman of ISRO - S. Somanath - is a graduate from the same ordinary engineering college in my hometown where I took my engineering degree from. Barring a few, graduates from IITs don't stay back in India. They move to the West. Perhaps the remarkable thing about ISRO is that it has been able to achieve so much despite this level of brain drain from the country. Also, ISRO doesn't have many "scientists" who have specialized in core scientific disciplines. Most of those whom Indian media habitually refer to "ISRO scientists" are in fact engineers who hail from the many ordinary engineering colleges across the country. Though ISRO's engineering teams might have the skills to design launch vehicles and make guidance and control systems to send spacrafts to Mars or land them on Moon, they relatively lack the skills in core science disciplines to design scientific payloads for those spacecrafts. They often invite proposals for such payloads from other specialized institutions like Indian Institute of Astrophysics or IUCAA (as they did in case of Astrosat and Aditya space observatories), but Somanath happened to remark once in an interview that he was very much disappointed by the response from the academic community to a recent RfP from ISRO for payloads and experiments to fly on the next Mars spacecraft. It would seem that unlike the Western universities, Indian academia have a dearth of researchers specialized in fields like planetary sciences. This may not be an exceptional case either, as Indian academic environment is generally a more fertile ground for "politics" and "nepotism" than studies and research.

Ahmed said...

Hello Mr. Vineeth

Thanks for your comments , I agree as a person from South Asia but pls note that most of the Indians and Pakistanis who are living and working in America are American citizens and it is their you can say responsibility and a good gesture that they must pay back to America by contributing in their field of choice in America and make America more progressive because these south Asian immigrants and American citizens who are living in America have received the level of support , respect and appreciations from Americans which is normally and generally not possible and has been visible in other countries specially in Eastern European countries .

America is not just a land of opportunity but it is also a land of multi cultural society where many nations live irrespective of their religious background and ethnic
background and America is one of the most tolerant and open minded countries in the world where foreign immigrants are welcomed with open arms .


Ahmed said...

Mr. Vineeth

You can’t expect developing countries like Pakistan , India , Bangladesh and Nepal to be providing the level of support , facilities and opportunities which western countries provide to their citizens .

And pls note what make us proud as a Pakistani is that inspite of so much competition that exists in western countries specially in the academic sector of America where students from different countries are studying and doing research , still Pakistani students and professionals are proving themselves in America and are mashallah making their mark their .

Inspite of having much lower population in America as compared to India and other nations , still Pakistanis are ranked in the top 10 nations of being in STEM program .

Also pls note that American universities are ranked in the top universities of the world and it is not as easy to prove your academic skills and talent in a country like America where many foreign students are also enrolled as international students .


Vineeth said...

Ahmed, there will be bright and talented individuals in every nation. What makes the difference is how nations nurture those talents and give them wings by providing the right environment of education and opportunities. Indians aren't genetically smarter than Pakistanis or vice versa. Or for that matter, neither of these nations have been gifted by a more talented population than say, a country in sub-Saharan Africa.

As another example, compare the medal tally of China vs India, or Pakistan vs Iran at the Huangzhou Asian Games and their level of population. Why are we such under-performers even among our peers?

Riaz Haq said...

As of today, Wikipedia lists 39 professors of Pakistani-origin and 171 professors of Indian-origin teaching at US universities.

Ahmed said...

Hello Mr. Vineeth

Thanks for your reply , agree with you to certain extent but not completely . Actually what makes western countries much different from developing countries is that their is far less or much less corruption in the western countries starting from top positions in governments till any department down the hill .

But pls note that less the corrupt government be , the more they will pay attention to the progress and future of the country and more sincere they will be with the country and this is something which is seriously lacking in governments and politicians of developing countries .


Ahmed said...

Dear Sir

Thanks for sharing these links .

Vineeth said...

Ahmed, I think corruption is only half the story. The other half has to do with misplaced priorities of the government, politicians and the people themselves at large. Here in this subcontinent, we often tend to care more about things like religion and traditions than education, public health and sanitation, and basic civic responsibilities. And even on the question of "corruption", though it is tempting in our societies to dump all the blame on the political class and bureaucrats, I do firmly believe that these politicians and bureaucrats are no more or no less "corrupt" than the people themselves. My own home state in southern India - Kerala - tops the list in the country when it comes to social sector spendings and human development indices like literacy, maternal mortality etc, and is often perceived to be the least "corrupt" among all Indian states. Generally politicians here are more "approachable" than those in other parts of the country too. However, it is common to see people here littering the public places without a second thought and then complain about civic authorities not doing enough to keep places clean. I mean, these ministers, politicians and bureaucrats all come from the same society, so how do we expect them to be any better than the people themselves are? Change has to happen from the bottom. Western states have better standards of politics and civic sense because the people and the wider society themselves changed for the better first. At least, that seems to be how things work in a democratic system, in my view.

That said, I have to admit to being clueless about how things work in a one-party authoritarian state like China where there doesn't seem to be any checks and balances in place to prevent abuse of power by the political class. There are no independent courts or a free media there, and yet the Chinese have done far better in uplifting their society (and in a shorter time) than half-baked democracies like ours.

JB said...

Pakistani American housed income $100,731, second highest after Indians $141,906

This is latest US Census update from Wikipedia, top 2 hoseholds incomes here are Indians and Pakistanis. Israelis are now much below:

Riaz Haq said...

Latest US Census Data Released in 2023

Pakistani-Americans Median Household Earning: $106,281, Mean Earnings: $149,178


White Americans: Median household Income $78,636 Mean Earnings $112,415

African Americans : $52,238 $76,888

American Indian Alaska Native $61,778 $85,838

Asian Indian $152,341 $197,732

Bangladeshi $80,288 $116,500

Chinese $101,738 $160,049

Taiwanese $122,952 $180,906

Filipino $109,090 $122,635

Pakistanis $106,286 $149,178

Nepal $92,262 $120,146

Asians $104,646 $149,363

Riaz Haq said...

US records 16% increase in admission of Pakistani students

In the past two years, an overall 33% increase has been noted
A United States Department of State report recorded a 16% increase in the admission of Pakistani students to universities across the country.

The annual Open Doors Report for 2022-23 report, prepared in collaboration with the Institute of International Education (IIE), highlighted a substantial increase in the number of students from Pakistan studying in higher education institutions in the US.

"During 2022-2023, there were 10,164 Pakistani students, compared to 8,772 in the previous year, indicating an impressive 16% increase," the report read.

It also underscores the continued prominence of the US as the top destination for international study in the 2022-2023 academic year. Notably, the data reveals a significant milestone, with the US hosting over one million (1,057,188) international students during this period, marking a remarkable 12% increase from the previous academic year and representing the fastest growth rate in over four decades.


International students in the U.S., by country of origin 2022/23 | Statista

10,164 students from Pakistan studying in America, ranking the country the 16th largest source of international students in the US

Riaz Haq said...

Government to establish 10 IT parks by next year: IT Ministry - Pakistan - Business Recorder

The government has announced the establishment of ten new Software Technology Parks across the country by next year, according to Radio Pakistan.

This was stated during a briefing by the Ministry of Information Technology to a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad.

The meeting was informed that 100 new e-employment centers will also be set up in the country by next year.

The project of Islamabad IT Park will be completed next year with the cooperation of South Korea. It will provide startups, incubation centers, banks, restaurants, and other facilities.

The meeting was informed that South Korea is also collaborating in establishing an information technology park project near Jinnah International Airport in Karachi which will be completed by 2027.

So far, 43 software technology parks have been established in 29 cities of the country.


Tech parks for growth

In today’s fast-paced global economy, technology parks play a crucial role in fostering industrial development by providing an ecosystem conducive to innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship.

These designated areas are often referred to as research and technology parks or science parks. They can serve as catalysts for economic growth, driving technological advancements, attracting investment, and nurturing talent. By bringing together academia, industry, and government, these parks facilitate collaboration and knowledge exchange, leading to breakthrough discoveries and technological advancements.

They are often located within or near universities so that they have ready access to highly trained workers in various fields. In Pakistan, I was involved in establishing a technology park in the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad as well as setting up several software technology parks in early 2001 in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar. More recently, an excellent technology park was established under my supervision within the Pak-Austria Fachhochschule (University of Applied Science and Engineering) in Haripur, Hazara.

Technology parks play a crucial role in enhancing the competitiveness of industries by providing access to state-of-the-art infrastructure, specialized facilities, and cutting-edge equipment. Companies located within technology parks benefit from shared resources such as research laboratories, testing facilities, and prototyping centres, enabling them to accelerate the development and commercialization of new products.

Moreover, the clustering effect of technology parks encourages the formation of industry clusters, where companies operating in related sectors can collaborate, share best practices, and access a pool of skilled talent.