Voice from MIT — NUST Alumnus

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Wasim Qamar Malik

is a graduate of  EME (NUST) 2000 (EE) , currently an Instructor in Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, and is affiliated with the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging. He also holds visiting appointments at the MIT and Brown University.

He received the DPhil degree in EE from the University of Oxford, UK, in 2005, where he worked in the field of wireless communications.  From 2007-2010, he was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the MIT and Harvard Medical School. Wasim has published an edited book titled Ultra-Wideband Antennas and Propagation for Communications, Radar and Imaging (UK: Wiley, 2006). He has worked as the Lead Editor of several technical periodicals. In addition, he has published in excess of 70 research papers in refereed journals and conferences.  (Read More)

Editors of the EME Alumni Newsletter 2010 had an exclusive opportunity of interviewing Dr. Malik and some portions of his interview are published for our NUSTians here:

Recalling the memories of his time at EME Dr. Qamar states that:

Our time in the College some ten years ago was a transformative period not just for the students but also for the College…..One of the most epic student-administration battles was on the question of using the Internet on campus, for which permission was partially and somewhat begrudgingly granted in the end.

He terms his career trajectory to be ‘unusually circuitous’. Working in telecom, software and consulting industry he decided to delve into academics and ended up at a faculty position at Harvard. He describes his experience as below:

Looking back, one factor behind my career choices was that I often picked the road not taken, and then jumped ship whenever it became too nice and cozy. Things would surely have been pretty different with any other set of choices, but it’s hard to say whether they would’ve panned out better or worse. I might be able to tell you that in another ten years, so please save some space in that issue of the Newsletter.

When asked, if he would recommend the same career path to his juniors he responded as below:

An academic career is not just a means to earning your daily bread, it is a life choice. The academy offers unmatched freedom and job satisfaction but also demands passion and sacrifice. If you know that you want to pursue an academic track, starting down that road right out of school is not a bad idea, although some practical experience in engineering is useful even in a purely academic career. Also, the line between academia and industry is more blurry than we imagine sometimes, and this is especially true for engineering. Most US universities encourage their staff to have some degree of industry involvement.

Dr. Wasim Qamar Malik defines research as:

To research is to approach with irreverence and skepticism followed by unbiased and meticulous analysis. A researcher does not rely on uninformed conjecture or faith, he cautiously infers from the available evidence instead. He welcomes the opportunity to be corrected and readily changes his stance when confronted with good reason. To put it in geek-speak, a good researcher is a Bayesian learning device.

Awesome experience right? Intimidating too? Well Dr. Qamar states candidly that he had never thought he would reach here, not even by a long shot. He expresses himself by saying:

Growing up in Islamabad, I could only have imagined a rather limited set of career options, but some interesting opportunities came my way which led to unpredictable decisions. As I see it, to be successful you must be a traceur who can carve out a path through life’s ever-changing maze.

Commenting on his choice of studying at NUST he states that ‘a solid foundation is critical to long-term success, and that is the important job that the NUST has been doing wonderfully for its graduates, many of whom have gone on to win laurels.’ This is true folks… NUSTIANs are indeed spread around the globe and have bagged many achievements.

Most important question in the final year students’ mind is JOB vs Further Studies. We asked the same to Dr. Qamar. He suggests that:

Getting into graduate school directly can save you some time, but industry exposure can broaden your perspectives, which is also of immense value. That exposure and maturity helps you delineate your goals in life which should dictate your career choices, including your area of specialization in graduate school. The practical exposure is especially beneficial to engineers who should be aware of real-world problems in order to solve them effectively.

Well, its all good stuff to read, but i got to work in an industry… So here is how Dr. Qamar thinks about it:

In the famous words of Confucius, choose a job you love and then you never have to work. You can’t go very far if your work does not motivate you enough to jump out of bed every morning. So my advice is, take your time to find your calling and then stop at nothing short of reaching for the farthest stars. Life is too short to fritter away and you only get one shot at it, so make the best of each fleeting moment.

So NUSTians we didn’t stop here… We asked him a real punch question. I would rather say that the key question of this entire post is this:

Due to lack of guidance, it is a common misconception in graduates of E&ME that if they pursue graduate studies (in pure engineering), they will be unfit for industry jobs, thereby restricting their career to only academia (at least in Pakistan). How would you clarify this misconception? What prospects are there for PhDs in industry?

While it is true that higher education can have an opportunity cost, I don’t see how it can ever be a disqualification. In fact, attending graduate school can enrich your life in myriad ways. By training you as a researcher, it sharpens your critical reasoning and problem-solving abilities which helps you at every step of your life. For many people, it changes their entire outlook by inculcating a certain sophistication of approach, a quality that is also valued in the job market.

So what are my chances? Can i get there? Yes sure … Dr. Qamar thinks that the “opportunities are limited only by your ambition and motivation”. Many western countries –the US being a prime example – are knowledge economies and therefore greatly value the abilities and potential of a student or professional. As my father likes to quote, there is always room at the top, so if you are at the top of your game, you can be sure that opportunity will come knocking at your door.

Dr. Qamar’s advice to young NUSTians is:

It helps to read good sci-tech magazines such as the New Scientist and MIT Technology Review. If you want to get your hands dirty as a practical technologist, one possibility is to identify the needs of your social context and to address them with the use of suitable technology, as has now started to happen, for example, in the realm of social entrepreneurship for development.

Yes folks… Keep your expectations high and never shy away from targeting lofty targets. Have you ever heard of Law of Nothing (TM)? Well it says ” Gorillas don’t exist at the beginning!”, means Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t exist since eternity. You can be at top by using your brain!

It helps to read good sci-tech magazines such as the New Scientist and MIT Technology Review. If you want to get your hands dirty as a practical technologist, one possibility is to identify the needs of your social context and to address them with the use of suitable technology, as has now started to happen, for example, in the realm of social entrepreneurship for development.

It helps to read good sci-tech magazines such as the New Scientist and MIT Technology Review. If you want to get your hands dirty as a practical technologist, one possibility is to identify the needs of your social context and to address them with the use of suitable technology, as has now started to happen, for example, in the realm of social entrepreneurship for development.

He is an alumnus of NUST (CEME, Electrical) 2009 Batch and Cornell University (M.Eng Systems Engineering) Class of 2011. Uzair has been an active member of student societies and EME Alumni Association. He was the co-founder of EME Environment Club and Society of ICTs (at EME College). During his undergrad he has been a correspondent of the EME college's fortnightly magazine 'campbuzz' and currently he is on the editorial panel of the EME Alumni Newsletter. Uzair is also an alumnus of ITU Telecom Asia Youth Forum (2008, Bangkok) and a proud NUSTian, who represented Pakistan at the forum. After the forum, he has been working with the youth around the globe to build a human network (h-network.org). He has also been blogging for ITU (UN's sister organization) on school and community connectivity through ICTs. He is also a Project Manager at Possibilities Pakistan (a platform for Pakistani youth to discuss study abroad prospects). He can be reached at ms2346(at)cornell(.)edu

9 Comments to Voice from MIT — NUST Alumnus

  1. Khurram Tanvir

    chay gay ho waseem, i cant believe this is same waseem. Well you surpassed all of us..

    best of luck

    and keep growing

    khurram tanvir

  2. Its my honor to see a person form NUST flourishing the world in the best of possible manners….

    MIT, I am coming for you….

    GOD SPEED Sir. Wasim Qamar Malik

  3. Good to know you have done so well in your life and career Wasim. I always knew you had it in you! congrats and well done!

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