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Pakistani Students Win Silver in International Genetic Engineering Competition

A team of undergraduate students representing Peshawar has won a silver medal in a genetic engineering competition organized recently by the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation in Boston, Massachusetts.

Source: iGEM Peshawar Facebook Page


iGEM Team:

The team was made up of students from several cities and towns across Pakistan including Lahore, Attock, Islamabad, Multan, Faisalabad, Khyber Agency, Nowshera, Charsadda, Peshawar, Swabi and Mardan.

The team was hosted by Institute of Integrative Biosciences of CECOS University of IT and Emerging Sciences Peshawar. It was sponsored by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP)’s Directorate of Science and Technology, according to media reports.

The team's silver-medal-winning 2017 entry is a genetically engineered fish called "Reporter Fish" that can detect five different heavy metals and change color to indicate the presence of metal contamination in the water. It used an Arduino electronic circuit board with bacterial-human interface device that enables bacteria to detect and report contamination.

The Peshawar team also participated in iGEM 2016 competition and won a Bronze medal. The 12-member team last year was made of 5 female and 7 male students.

Stanford Challenge:

Earlier this year, a 3-person team of Pakistani students, including a female student from Islamabad's National University of Science and Technology (NUST), won first place in a contest organized by Stanford Center of Longevity. The team's entry is a device they designed and prototyped that enables tremor patients to perform daily routine tasks.

Higher Education in Pakistan:

Wins such as the iGEM silver medal and the first place in Stanford Challenge are the result of improvements in higher education in Pakistan since the year 2000.

There are over 3 million students enrolled in grades 13 through 16 in Pakistan's 1,086 degree colleges and 161 universities, according to Pakistan Higher Education Commission report for 2013-14.  The 3 million enrollment is 15% of the 20 million Pakistanis in the eligible age group of 18-24 years.  In addition, there are over 255,000 Pakistanis enrolled in vocational training schools, according to Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA).

Graduation Day at NED Engineering University For 1300 Graduates in 2013

Pakistani universities have been producing over half a million graduates, including over 10,000 IT graduates, every year since 2010, according to HEC data. The number of university graduates in Pakistan increased from 380,773 in 2005-6 to 493,993 in 2008-09. This figure is growing with rising enrollment and contributing to Pakistan's growing human capital.

Source: UNESCO's Global Education Digest 2009

Higher education in Pakistan has come a long way since its independence in 1947 when there was only one university, the University of Punjab. By 1997, the number of universities had risen to 35, of which 3 were federally administered and 22 were under the provincial governments, with a combined enrollment of 71,819 students. A big spending boost by President Pervez Musharraf helped establish 51 new universities and awarding institutions during 2002-2008. This helped triple university enrollment from 135,000 in 2003 to about 400,000 in 2008, according to Dr. Ata ur Rehman who led the charge for expanding higher education during Musharraf years. There are 161 universities with 1.5 million students enrolled in Pakistan as of 2014.

R&D Investment: 

Rise of research and publications at Pakistani universities began during Musharraf years when the annual budget for higher education increased from only Rs 500 million in 2000 to Rs 28 billion in 2008, to lay the foundations of the development of a strong knowledge economy, according to former education minister Dr. Ata ur Rehman. Student enrollment in universities increased from 270,000 to 900,000 and the number of universities and degree awarding institutions increased from 57 in 2000 to 137 by 2008. Government R&D spending jumped seven-fold as percentage of GDP from 0.1% of GDP in 1999 to 0.7% of GDP in 2007. It has since declined as percentage of GDP.

Summary:

Pakistani students, scientists and researchers are continuing to produce highly recognized and cited research in spite of serious economic and security challenges. Enrollment in higher education is rising and giving a boost to innovation. With better policy focus and more investment in higher education, Pakistan  can make an even greater impact with its young demographics.

Related Links:

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Pakistani Scientists at CERN

Rising College Enrollment in Pakistan

10 Pakistani Universities Among Asia's Top 300

Genomics and Biotech Research in Pakistan

Human Capital Growth in Pakistan

Educational Attainment in Pakistan

Pakistan Human Development in Musharraf Years

Robotics Growth in Pakistan 

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Comment by Riaz Haq on January 12, 2018 at 8:38am

Pakistan’s biggest Science Olympiad LUMS PsiFi set to kick off this Friday

https://www.techjuice.pk/pakistans-biggest-science-olympiad-lums-ps...

The biggest science Olympiad of the country, PsiFi, which is hosted by the Lahore University of Management and Sciences’ Society for Promotion of Engineering and Sciences is set to start from tomorrow.

PsiFi is entering into its 9th edition, thus the name “PsiFi IX”. The first edition of the series gave LUMS the honour of being the pioneer of Science Olympiads in Pakistan. Since then, PsiFi has been held on an annual basis and each event promises a better experience than before.

SPADES’ executive body is determined to make this year’s event a success, putting in days and nights to ensure that the participants have an exhilarating start to the year. PsiFi consists of a bundle of science-oriented competitions. It revolves around 16 academic events and 4 socials spread over 4 days, starting from the 13th till the 16th of January, 2018.

SPADES quotes the drive to counter the narrative of science being a “boring” field as the root cause of the efforts to make Psifi a “Feast of Fun”. It has set out with all the right weapons required to convince everyone that science is fun and interesting.

The 16 academic events are spread over a wide array of backgrounds and are not confined to one branch of science. Some of them are:

See also: Upcoming Lahore Science Mela is all about blending science with culture

1. Diagnosis Dilemma
This event is based on 3 rounds, starting off from a Crisis scenario wherein participants will take up the role of a paramedic and try to counter the crisis situation, participants will put their surgical ability to test and pull out a tumor from a dummy without damaging internal organs.

2. Galactica
This event aims to bring out the Matt Damon in everyone and test their knowledge of space and planets. Nowadays, space travel and the possibility of people living on other planets is constantly being explored by governments and firms like SpaceX. Now, students have the chance to present their proposals in front of a learned judging panel. Galactica, where limits extend beyond the sky.

3. Geek Wars
This event is bound to exploit the movie and seasons knowledge of the participants. Based on 5 rounds, this event will bring out the sci-fi movie nerd inside everyone. The rounds will comprise of MCQs, riddles and dares, all of them aiming to bring the Sci-Fi element in Psifi!

4. Vine’d Up
This event is all about laughter, humor and the best thing in our lives: Memes! Based on 3 rounds in addition to a bonus round, this event will comprise of participants making memes out of images given to them and using imaginary gadgets in (hopefully) funny videos. This event promises to be one of the most enjoyable of the roster of events, and rightfully so. After all, what’s life without laughter, right?

Other than the academic events, Psifi will also host 4 social events including a concert which is bound to be the highlight of the event. Starting from the amazing opening ceremony all the way up to the Black and Gold themed Closing Dinner, the socials will be an amazing remedy for the stress from the academic events.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 25, 2018 at 10:08am

Pakistani student’s ‘sonic eye’ a ray of light for the visually impaired
Hifza is also working on a mobile app that can help the partially blind find their way around

http://gulfnews.com/news/asia/pakistan/pakistani-student-s-sonic-ey...

Two years ago when Faizan Khan woke up in hospital following a car crash, he rubbed his eyes hard but still couldn’t see a thing. He initially thought it was an effect of the trauma from which he would recover with time but he had in fact been blinded.
Today, the horrors of his car accident are long gone but he is still learning to live in a world he cannot see anymore. “I had great difficulty at first as I simply wasn’t prepared for it” says Faizan. “One of the most detrimental impacts of vision loss is that you’re not able to move around like before. The fact that you are dependent on someone for movement is the worst feeling.”

Faizan and millions of visually impaired people like him now have a chance to make sense of their surroundings with the help of Sonic Eye, a device that acts as a navigational prop through the medium of sound.
The innovative device has been developed by 23-year-old Hifza Jamal, a student from Peshawar in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — signifying how young Pakistani women in the field of technology are transforming society.
Talking to Gulf News, Hifza explained that Sonic Eye is basically a stick that is attached to a navigation system. “This navigation helps to identify the objects in the path. These sensors alert the visually impaired with a loud sound when an object is nearby,” she said.

“The device releases frequencies in the shape of a cone, which when they come in contact with any object in a certain range, activate the buzzer,” said Hifza detailing her invention.
The device can indicate obstacles ahead and makes it easier for visually impaired people to find their way around. The device could be extremely useful for not only the blind but also the partially blind or people with complex eye diseases.
During her research for the project, Hifza spoke to several visually impaired persons as well as eye therapists to understand the problems faced by people with vision loss.
“What struck me most was that vision loss can have a debilitating impact on the mobility and independence of people. They are stuck in one place and become dependent on other people.”
Determined to instil hope in the physically challenged population of Pakistan, Hifza decided to resume work on her university project. “Sonic Eye was basically my university final year project made with the help of my colleagues under the supervision of my professors,” said Hifza, who completed her Bachelor of Computer Science degree from the Institute of Management Sciences Peshawar.
“I am perhaps the first one to launch this technological device in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” she reckons.
Hifza is currently busy working to develop a mobile app that will be able to offer a navigational aid for the blind without even having to use the stick. The app has image processing, face recognition and object detection features, which will help partially sighted persons perceive their surroundings with the use of a mobile camera. “The app is basically aimed at partially blind people,” Hifza explained.
“The app will also recognise currency by speaking the denomination, enabling visually impaired people to easily identify and count bills.”
Hifza is also the co-founder of Sympathizers, an organisation working to provide better education, health and everyday facilities to special people in Peshawar.
Armed with the Sonic Eye and the app she is working on, Hifza aims to bring about a phenomenal change in the lives of people with visual impairments. “This technology can allow sightless people to live an independent life,” she said.

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