Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ashraf is the Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF), an organization working under Ministry of Science and Technology. In recognition of his contributions for science, he has been awarded with Hilal-i-Imtiaz and Sitara-i-Imtiaz. Prof. Ashraf did his PhD from the University of Liverpool, UK in 1986. Soon after completing his PhD work there, he was offered a post-doctoral position for a period of 8 months. From his PhD and postdoctoral work he was able to publish more than 20 papers in very high quality journals in plant sciences including New Phytologist. Dr. Ashraf’s contribution in human resource development has been remarkable. He has produced 72 PhD students. He was bestowed with the title of HEC Distinguished National Professor by the Higher Education Commission in 2005. Dr. Ashraf has earned First Position in Biosciences in the COMSTECH ranking of scientists and engineers of all OIC countries in 2012. According to ISI Web of Knowledge, his h-index is 50, total journal impact factor over 660, and Science Citation Index (SCI) over 13,500 (being highest among all national experimental scientists) and according to Google’s My Citations, h-index is over 79 and citations are over 32,000.
Dr. Ashraf started his teaching career with Bahauddin Zakariya University. Later on he worked as Dean at University of Agriculture Faisalabad. He also served as Vice Chancellor of Agriculture University Multan. From around two and a half year, he is serving as Chairman of Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF).
Engineering Cap (EC) met him recently. Following conversation ensued:
EC: What pushed you towards Biological Sciences?
Dr. Ashraf: I had strong interest in biological and medical sciences. However, I missed admission in MBBS due to only four marks in FSc. Pre-medical. But today, I feel that I may not have served that well, being a medical practitioner as I have done in biological sciences.
EC: What are the factors behind your success?
Dr. Ashraf: Dedication and hard work are the two basic factors of success.
EC: What have you done to inculcate science in youth?
Dr. Ashraf: We have started a Science Talent Farming Scheme under which scholarship is given to students of 10th grade. The purpose of this scheme is to develop interest of youth in science and produce scientists for the future. We have developed an international liaison program as well to boost interest in science among our youth.
EC: How do you see the future of PSF?
Dr. Ashraf: We can progress by focusing innovation at academic level. This will help in increasing our exports and reduce the import bill.
EC: Why Science is not getting coverage in main stream media?
Dr. Ashraf: If Science & Technology of a country is strong, the economy will ultimately get stronger. All heads of scientific organizations need to be a good advocate of science. We need to spread awareness about importance of science for the economy among the media personnel. PSF has organized several seminars in collaboration with media and also signed MOU with Press Club. As a result, we are now getting better coverage of our interventions.
EC: What need to be done for our new generation?
Dr. Ashraf: Science & Technology is a must for our new generation. In France and Germany, science education starts from primary education level. This is why they are producing more noble laureates and are dominating the world of science. We also need to start science education from grass root level. Curriculum should be modified accordingly and capacity building of teachers is also required. Science should be taught as fun and not as a science. China is leading through innovation rather invention.
EC: How do you see the role of private sector in promotion of science in Pakistan?
Dr. Ashraf: Private sector should not work in isolation. Research and Development should be based on problems encountered by industry. Resolving the issues of industry will complement our economy.
EC: What do you think of industry-academia-government triangle?
Dr. Ashraf: This is called triple helix model and is being implemented effectively in several countries. For progress, all these three sectors need to work together. Issues of industry need to be resolved by academia with the funding of government.
EC: How can we improve the science education in schools?
Dr. Ashraf: Practical should be given more emphasis and weightage of marks for practical may also be increased. We are facilitating our children to participate in international Olympiads and festivals.
EC: How can we benefit from e-learning?
Dr. Ashraf: We have developed an application named Learning Management System. Digital education and practical knowledge is provided to students through this application.
Dr. Ashraf also shared that the Museum of Natural History at Islamabad has been up-graded and the number of visitors have substantially increased.
For our readers, Engineering Cap suggests to visit the official website of Pakistan Science Foundation www.psf.gov.pk to learn how one can get ones kids indulge in love for science from early age and what avenues are available for outstanding students.