Friday, January 16, 2004

9th Biennial Conference of the Association of Pakistani Scientists and Engineers of North America (APSENA)

In my introductory remarks as Chairman of the 9th Biennial Conference of the Association of Pakistani Scientists and Engineers of North America (APSENA), Marriott Hotel, Islamabad, December 22, 2003, I had emphasized the significance of communication between scientists and engineers for the economic progress of Pakistan. I had cited an example of the discovery of the Conducting Polymers first by a Japanese scientist, H. Shirakawa in 1970's, who shared his discovery with a visiting American Chemist, A. G. MacDiarmid (Univ. of Pennsylvania) in a meeting in Japan. MacDiarmid upon return from Japan put his graduate students to work, to investigate if his lab could also reproduce the results, and was successful. But they could not understand the mechanism which was causing these materials to behave like conductor quite contrary to the already known physical properties of ploymers to act as insulators. Finally MacDiarmid went to his colleague, A. J. Heeger, in the Physics Department at the same university, and Heeger was able to explain the mechanism using the already known Quantum mechanical theories applied to Semiconductors. Lo, and behold their collaborative efforts brought the three of them Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the year 2000. When I noticed the immense applications of these conducting polymers I published an article "Conducting Polymers and the Evolving Electronics Technology," EEE LINKS, NASA Electronic Parts and Packaging Program, Vol. 7, No. 2, July, 2001.
Working at General Electric Company, and later at NASA, ( and with two Nobel Laureates) I learnt that scienctific pursuit had no well defined boundaries, and one had to work in an interdisciplinary world sharing with and learning from others to bring about innovative technologies for the benefit of mankind. Pakistani scientists and engineers are urged to come out of their "BOXES" and work in an interdisciplinary environment, which can give impetus to industry and bring forth an economic boom for our peoples. The following article in Scientific American Magazine is about only a small domain of Conducting Polymers related to DISPLAY DEVICES, but sky is the limit about the applications of these polymers. We have a lot of talented people (physicists, chemists, material scientists, mathematicians, and computer experts) who can collaborate and take this technology to higher levels and create jobs for the people. Unless the scientists and industrialist collaborate (which is the success recipe of Western countries, and the East) we can no longer afford to live in our separate "boxes" (physics, chemistry, etc), and if we continue to do so it spells the decline of our economic progress.
Another very important concept is that we don't have to build too many universities (like the independent mosques of various sects) but make the existing institutions (that have produced many a brilliant and talented scientist) stronger and support them through Alumnii support programs, which are the back-bone of Western universities. Let us not keep our eggs in "one basket" but diversify in scientific pursuits.

Bashir A. Syed
Member: APS, IEEE, ASES, UCS, New York Acad.. of Sciences, and APSENA
Fulbright, NSF/US-AEC, & NASA Scholar

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