Mr. Sikandar K Sherwani, chairman of Microbiology Association of Pakistan (MAP).
He is a Lecturer of Microbiology (Sp. Immunology & Infectious Diseases) at the Department of Microbiology in Federal Urdu University for Arts, Science & Technology (FUUAST). He is also a research scholar at Immunology and Infectious Disease Research Laboratory (IIDRL) at Dept of Microbiology University of Karachi, Pakistan.
Q) Sir, Sikander K. Sherwani, the well known Researcher, Academician and Science Communicator of Pakistan. You always tried to increase the importance of scientific research in Pakistan. Starting from your early childhood life, how you used to take science at that time? How science has influenced you as you progress in your life?
Comment: Well, luckily enough, I always think that I was born in a very advanced city in Pakistan i.e. Karachi rich with talented persona. In addition, I always proudly say that I got the best school, the best College and the best university in country. Naturally, under the guidance and grooming of such institutions played a key role in building my existing personality. Since childhood, I loved watching scientific programs, National Geographic channel etc. I have had great influence of my teachers who did the best in science in their life. Secondly, I always find my personal instinct very close to particularly human biology and their sufferings like diseases and infections etc. As we all know that Pakistan is the third world country which has load of infectious diseases like diarrhea, hepatitis, HIV etc. I used to like reading science stories, science magazines in my spare time. I loved to read the contributions and achievements of great biologists in the world. They are indeed my ideals of all times and infact had great influence on me. The thirst of discovering something in biology, me and my teachers found in me at a very early age. Teaching has always been a passion for me. To me teaching is very noble profession. I have had great sympathy of common people and I feel so sorry about miseries and sufferings of people from infectious diseases. This led me to develop a sense of doing research of curative nature against these ailments. Though I was a position holder, yet I always took part in every extracurricular activity. I yet remember I participated in poster science competition in my school life, really so confused and suddenly announced to get 1st Prize in poster that gives appreciation by my teachers. That was my first ladder and really encouraged me to get biological science in future.
Q) Heard a lot about your research papers in different forums and at such a young age you have done it, how many researcher papers do you have and what is your field of interest in research?
Comment: Thanks to God, I have published more than 100 research papers, yes a very young age. I have also developed some reviews on some critical topics of Microbiology. I have more research papers on medicinal plant screening and infectious diseases. In infectious diseases, I have done in all aspects like protozoal diseases, bacterial fungal, parasitic and viral. My dearest area of work is Clinical microbiology, immunology and off course love to design molecules from natural plants screening.
Q) What awards/ honors did you get for your services? How Medical Microbiology Association of Pakistan is going?
Comment: Well, I believe, it is the beginning of my journey, have to go along way. I am so delighted when recently my work was appreciated by Queen Charlotte’s Herb Society, USA and North Carolina Association and gave me special title as TEA_MAN, due to my work on green tea. I got Best oral and poster presentation awards, Canadian Scholarship for course, Position holder in university, Best teacher and young researcher by ICS and IFIC, Excellence award etc. Yes, Clinical microbiology and issue re so dear to me. Realizing it, in 2010, I established Medical Microbiology Association of Pakistan (MMAP) and currently Chair-elect of it.
Q) How your parents used to motivate you in your studies? Is there any person who has been into your motivation?
Comment: I was so lucky that my parents were very well educated. Especially, my mother who belonged to education sector served quite good positions as Principal and district level incharge in education department. My all brothers are engineers, but I have a very strong taste for pursuing something remarkable in biological sciences. My mother used to listen whatever I talked about in science, in biology. I was so crazy enough to establish a small lab at home. She encouraged me a lot to opt whatever subject I am interested in. She was very broad minded, she didn’t force me to do this and that. Frankly speaking, if she could force me but I am not such person, I always do whatever my heart says to me. I strongly give credit one of my mentors from University of Karachi Pro. Dr .Shahana Urooj Kazmi, who has wonderful teaching style and remarkable research capabilities that is why I idealized her a lot.
Q) What was your background in your PhD research? Have you extended your research that you have done in PhD in future?
Comment: You know that antibiotic resistance is the burning issue in Microbiology research due to injudicious prescription of antibiotics. My PhD work is about isolating a bioactive molecule from green tea for the sake of treatment of drug resistant, the world’s first known bacterium causing gastric ulcer and cancer i.e. Helicobacter pylori. I did also genotyping, some immunological and prevalence aspects too. I have few research papers about it. Yes off course, I’m further exploring my PhD work because green tea has a lot of potential and I believe that some other compounds may also have potential to fight against infectious diseases. I have already found out a number of pharmacological.
Q) You are a faculty member of Microbiology, Federal Urdu University; even you are the Journal Associate Editor of the University. How you motivate your students about the microbiological research? Do you share your research based understanding to students?
Comment: I always encourage my students to take interest in microbiology right from the day one in the university, unfortunately most of the teachers don’t emphasize on the opportunities working in the area of microbiology that’s y students sometimes got discouraged. I always do career orientation of them so that they must aware of the future and relevant jobs. I continuously organize seminars, workshops and conferences in my department so that students know latest advancements in research. I always discuss about current technology and research with my students so that they must keep them abreast with the latest scientific knowledge. Moreover, I also conduct visits of important laboratories, food and pharma industries. As I believe that this knowledge they can apply when they get job in future.
Q) How many countries have you visited and what is the difference you find between developing and developed one?
Comment: I am lucky enough to get an opportunity to see entire Pakistan and presented my work in all major cities of Pakistan in universities and academia settings. Moreover, I equally got also opportunity to present work in USA, Thailand, Nepal, Dubai, Iran, Lebanon etc. They are very focused and working on innovative ideas. Very sorry to say, we seem to be publishing repeated work. As far as facilities are concerned, offcourse they are very well equipped it. I sometimes wonder we have talented people in our part of world but simply due to lack of resources and sometimes lack of encouragement, good talent got rusted.
Q) You had been a visiting faculty at University of Karachi, Jinnah University of Women, Indus Institute of Higher Education, and Pakistan; hence you have come across different students and researchers in Pakistan. So what are your words for the upcoming researchers of Pakistan? How biological research is important in developing countries like in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh?
Comment: Yes I’m so lucky enough to do contribution as a visiting faculty member in a number of premium institutions of Pakistan. I have presented in 100s of conferences on various aspects of microbiology. My advice is research has a lot of potential and its very exciting and interesting as well to conduct new and new experiments and explore various avenues in microbiology. I strongly believe in collaborations that make the work easier and interesting. Yes, you are right that India Bangladesh and Pakistan are facing lot of diseases and infections. One of the reasons could be poor infrastructure and insanitary conditions all around that basically erupt out serious diseases and outbreaks. We need vaccines, good nutrition, good pharmaceutical products and awareness so there should be great emphases to make students realize the importance of biology.
Q) If you need to standardize the future prospect of Research fields, what are the changes you wish to pertain as a science communicator, or as a educationalist?
Comment: I always feel that we have very limited research facilities, limited opportunities’ but lot of challenges, like lack of funding, limited scholarships and seriously lacking of academia-industrial linkages’. Hats off the Higher Education Commission for providing research and travelling grants to teachers and researchers; a productive effect surely for the up gradation of research. Whenever; I get certain opportunity at certain level or designations. I would like to bring about changes in the policies and reserve more funds for research.
Q) I hope you have come across We The Microbiologist and now WTM is going International as we are having young International Coordinators from different countries like Bangladesh, Nigeria and even from Pakistan. So we would wish to know few comments about WTM for the future improvement to influence students by enrichment of science.
Comment: Microbiology is very dear subject and close to my heart indeed. I strongly encourage all existing and developing forums where microbiology is being spread or discussed. Similarly, I warmly appreciate from the core of my heart, the effort of WTM being made in the promotion of microbiology science and its awareness among masses. I advise to organize seminars, conferences, symposia and workshops on the current topics to increase knowledge of our microbiologists.
Interview taken under Micrographia Today magazine under We The Microbiologist (www.wethemicrobiologist.in) by Saumyadip Sarkar, Managing Director and Science Communicator, We The Microbiologist.