Logo

Burgeoning Career: Nepali Scientists in the UK

January 23, 2014 , by Pramila Rai, 2 Comments
Burgeoning Career: Nepali Scientists in the UK » My Dreams Mag

 

Talent will always find a niche in the world, and Nepali scientists in the UK are attesting to that. They research, study and teach in world renowned universities, and their effort is fruitful and career very rewarding. They engage in and research interesting and important topics with some of the best minds in the world, and their contribution to science is notable.

Some of these scientists and researchers share their accounts of what led them to work in the UK, and why their decision has been justified.

***

Roshan Lal Shrestha, Cancer Biology Researcher 

Roshan Shrestha

Current Position

Roshan Lal Shrestha, a graduate student at Department of Genetics in the University of Cambridge, also works as a research assistant and laboratory manager in the university. He has earlier worked at Om Hospital in Kathmandu as a Medical Technologist analysing patients’ body fluids and blood specimens to identify diseases. He is involved in organisations like Science Development Initiative-Nepal (ScDI-Nepal) and Biotechnolgy Society of Nepal (BSN), which provide intellectual support to Nepalese students through scientific communications, and to some extent, financial support to organise or attend conferences and seminars.

Shrestha explains that the lab is studying tumorigenesis. “It is the process behind tumour formation. Our lab works on different aspects involving cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology and microscopy to understand detail mechanism involved in cell division and how or what wrong can go with cell division resulting in cancer or other birth defects. This helps design drugs to treat or control cancer or tumorigenesis more efficiently.”

Working in the UK

While he actually had no inclination to start a career abroad, the lack of opportunity to continue further studies in Biomedical Science in Nepal led him to the UK where he also got the opportunity to work. “The experience I gain here will definitely help in contributing to the development of biomedical research in Nepal,” he says.

One of the perks of working in the UK, for him, is the state of the art technology which makes work so efficient. The chance to meet great scientists and receive personal feedback from them is an added incentive. An idea or interest in a topic can be strengthened further due to the fact that funding for research is easily available for genuine and prospectively remarkable projects, as agencies are eager to support the process of finding a cure for related diseases. As an example, he reports that cancer research project that he works on is funded by Cancer Research UK.

Science in Nepal

He feels lack of awareness in Nepal about importance of research is a serious setback for science. Despite the label of ‘Research Centre’ attached in the name, most hospitals in Nepal do not have a research and development unit. There is also a glaring lack of support and collaboration between medical doctors and other health professionals in Nepal, he says from experience.

In his opinion, modern science has not been fully explored in Nepal. Then again, he finds that even with limited infrastructure, scientific research work in Nepal is quite satisfactory. He acknowledges that Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University have been progressing in the field of biological research. “But they’re limited to the university level due to lack of modern infrastructure and industrial application,” he shares.

I am really looking forward to return and work in Nepal. As I mentioned earlier, Nepal is not in the situation to fund a large amount for scientific research. I am preparing to be a well trained researcher so that I can use my scientific expertise back home and compete to get international funding” he spoke about his future plans.

Achievements

Since the last few years, Shrestha has been working on how chromosomes in human cells reach the correct position and obtain sufficient force which leads to them dividing equally among two daughter cells. Last year, he, along with his supervisor, demonstrated a step-wise event that brings chromosomes in human cells at the correct positions for error free cell division and molecular players involved in this event.

This was a long standing question in the field of cancer cell biology which they answered, and this work was published in a well known scientific journal called ‘Current Biology’. “This was a big achievement for us because this was not only technically challenging, but this finding will help solve many mysteries in the field of cancer cell biology” He finished.

In the end

It is Shrestha’s belief that only with the development of science can a country move forward. There are many good Nepali scientists, but they should be provided with an environment that is conducive to a successful partnership with international researchers and projects to obtain intellectual and financial support to do research.

For Futher Questions: rosh.nep@googlemail.com

 

***

Dr Lata Gautam, Forensic Scientist

Dr. Lata Gautam

 

Going to the UK

Initially a science teacher, Dr Lata Gautam’s interest in forensic science developed during her work at National Forensic Science Laboratory (NFSL) in Khumaltar, Kathmandu which she later followed with a PhD.

She moved to the UK accompanying her husband, Dr Poshendra Satyal, for his MPhil program at the University of Cambridge. Now, more than a decade later, she is immersed in teaching and research in the country. A Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science and a Course Leader for Undergraduate Forensic Science at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, she also supervises PhD students.

A 2009 Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, UK, Dr Gautam cites transparency, rewards and recognition of one’s efforts as the advantages of working in the country. Busy with teaching and mentoring students as well as continuing her own research, she also makes time for writing articles and attending conferences. “It is a very diverse and rewarding role that I have,” she says.

Current Work

Some of her most interesting works include drugs profiling, street drug analysis, ignitable liquid residues detections, drug facilitated sexual assault investigation, research on environmental forensics (drugs and pharmaceuticals detection from hair, feather, water) etc. She has led a challenging course for chemical industry employees without a university degree through blended learning approach to enhance their knowledge and skills. 

Work Culture in the UK

Discussing the difference of work culture in the two countries, she points out that where she was just doing a job in Nepal and not motivated to explore the dynamics of her job, her career in the UK was a refreshing change. Staff appraisal is a constant stimulation to work harder and progress in one’s career. Also, training opportunities are plentiful in the UK which helps in personal development.

She reasons it’s imperative to consider essential points like better pay, proper budget allocation, team building and networking activities, research collaborations and working in partnerships with other national and international organisations, trainings and short courses for personal development to enhance the research environment in Nepal. The same holds true to encourage more scientists to come work in Nepal.

Science in Nepal

Some scientific disciplines such as Biotechnology are progressing quite well in Nepal, she says. As for forensic sciences, emphasis should be placed on training, education and research in order for the stream to flourish.

Dr Gautam says that forensic labs in Nepal, NFSL and Police Forensic Lab in Maharajgunj are working on forensic case investigation and various sample analysis .

However, research and teaching of this subject is lacking in Nepal. We do not yet have crime scene examiners/officers to attend crime scenes. It’s the police officers who collect the samples. We need better training for those officers so that a crime scene is examined thoroughly, evidences are collected, packaged and transported to the lab, maintaining simple integrity and better chain of custody,” she suggests.

Future Plans

She intends to work more closely with students, teachers and researchers in Nepal, and has already initiated efforts to collaborate with Nepali universities and organizations to that effect. A positive result has already developed in the form of Anglia Ruskin University showing interest to develop research partnership with universities and organizations in Nepal.

For Futher Questions: Lata.Gautam@angila.ac.uk

 

***

Dr Sujan Rajbhandari, Optical Wireless Communications Researcher

Current Work

Sujan RajbhandariDr Sujan Rajbhandari is a Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the University of Oxford. Optics has always held a deep fascination for him; he says he built a telescope when he was in secondary school.

His research work is on optical wireless communications (OWC) with a focus on visible light communications (VLC). “The idea is to transmit data through light using free space channel. It’s a joint project between universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews, Strathclyde, Oxford and Cambridge” he says.

The concept of VLC is similar to that of fibre optics where information is broadcasted using light. The distinguishing difference between VLC and fibre optics is that the former does not use fibre. In Dr Rajbhandari’s own words, light beam loaded with information is transmitted in free space. VLC will offer cheaper and more energy-efficient communication in comparison to the existing wireless radio systems.

The current general illumination devices like compact florescent light (CFL) cannot be used for meaningful data communications. The goal of the project is to improve the VLC technology so that LEDs used for general illumination can be used for high speed data communications,” he describes his work.

Working in the UK

The opportunity to be part of a world leading research organization that could reshape the communications infrastructure was a huge incentive to work in the UK.

Dr Rajbhandari further describes the exhilaration derived from his work. “It is very exciting to be actively involved in a project that has the prospect of reshaping communications infrastructure. It is gratifying to feel that you are improving technology that will ultimately improve the quality of human life. This project has given me chance to engage and work with world’s leading scientists in the field.”

Science in Nepal

With Nepal only recently initiating wireless communication it is hardly surprising that there is not any work in the line, he says. He adds that telecommunication companies in Nepal are not using the latest available technology.

OWC technology has not yet entered the market in Nepal. During my recent visit, I gave a presentation to introduce OWC technology in Asian Institute of Technology and Management and Nepal Telecom. Most of the audience did not have any knowledge regarding it.”

While living far from family and friends, and missing out on festivals are routine challenges of living in another country, the need to meet high expectations in the workplace is very tricky. From deadlines to managing time for meetings and research to dealing with new problems that crop up time and again, professional life is as tough in the UK as it is exciting.

Achievements

Dr Rajbhandari’s professional achievements include accomplishing data speed of 3.5 Gb/s using micro-LED for visible light communication in the UP-VLC project. “This is the world record so far for the free space VLC,” he states. He has also published more than 80 articles on optical wireless communications and co-written a book, Optical Wireless Communications: System and Channel Modelling with MATLAB®.

He was awarded a prestigious Northumbria University PhD studentship to work on OWC systems. He was awarded the best performing PhD student for two consecutive academic sessions during his PhD. He has also served as a technical reviewer for a number of conferences and journals and co-edited the proceeding of of the NOC/OC&I 2011 and EFEA2012 conferences

Yet, he does not see himself living permanently in the UK. The plan, he says, is to return to Nepal after accumulating valuable experience. He remarks, “I will make greater contribution to science if I stay in a developed nation. But the satisfaction you receive serving your own people is incomparable.”

He assumes that with very less people studying science and technology in Nepal, limited opportunities in these fields compel them to work in other countries.

Attracting Students to Science

He believes in order to attract children to science, it should be practical but easy enough for children to understand. He rues the lack of trained teachers in Nepal who can provide a good science education to young minds. “The curriculum needs to change to encourage creative thinking and independent learning. I have attended a few science workshops in UK targeted at children. It is surprising how a complex theory can be demonstrated in a simple manner using concepts or events you see in everyday life.”

Dr Rajbhandari advocates for the universities in Nepal to focus and invest on research. It is this void that propels Nepali scientists to work and develop their skills in other countries. The lack of research facilities and opportunity in science and technology in Nepal is a serious setback to the research and science community of the country. He says that at present, there’s no substantial support from the government in scientific research, and none of the universities in Nepal are doing any active research.

For Futher Questions: Sujan.Rajbhandari@eng.ox.ac.uk

***

Dr Poshendra Satyal. Environment and Development Researcher

Poshendra Satyal

Dr Poshendra Satyal is an Affiliate Member of the OpenSpace – The Open University’s Centre for Geographical and Environmental Research, in the UK, an Affiliate Research Fellow with University of Glasgow and a Visiting/ Honorary Fellow at the Southasia Institute of Advanced Studies in Nepal. He was formerly a research fellow at Crichton Carbon Centre and ClimateXChange – Scotland’s Centre of Expertise on Climate Change.

Born and having spent much of his early childhood in Hedangna, a remote part of Sankhuwasabha district in Nepal, Dr Poshendra Satyal considers himself fortunate to have been selected for Cambridge Overseas Trust Scholarships for his postgraduate study in Cambridge.

Current Work

Currently, his focus is on interdisciplinary and policy relevant research on environment and development in South Asia (particularly in Nepal) and Europe (Scotland and the UK) with a longstanding interest in forest governance, environmental change and climate justice. “I have other research interests and activities in conservation and human rights, biodiversity and human wellbeing, food security and agriculture, forest politics and policy, environmental conflicts and management, and ecosystem services and poverty alleviation” he explains.

He points to his concern about injustices in the context of natural resources as the beginning of his interest to study and research on these issues. His earlier study and work experience in agriculture and natural resources management in India and Nepal brought cases of injustice to his attention. He says, “This led me to conclude that in order to solve problems in Nepalese agriculture and natural resources, issues of justice should come to the fore.”

Working in the UK

Work, for Dr Satyal, is absorbing and intellectually challenging. Learning is a continuous process and it gets exciting with the constant advancement in knowledge, skills and technology. The fact that one’s effort and contribution are credited and acknowledged makes working in the UK incredibly satisfying.

However, strong competition in the job market poses as a major challenge. “One should be prepared to compete amongst the best in the subject area.”

Dr Satyal concurs there is a huge difference in the work culture in Nepal and the UK. Where procrastination has come to be a general characteristic in Nepal, a deadline is considered important and also met in the UK.

Both private and public sector institutions in Nepal are mostly rife with corruption, nepotism and favouritism whereas transparency and accountability is generally the norm in the UK. In terms of academic institutions and organisations, Nepal lacks a vibrant research culture and the learning and assessment systems in the country are also very traditional,” says he.

Seeing that his work is on environment and development issues faced by Nepal and the developing world, there are many works in these subjects done by Nepali as well as other researchers.

He points out, “But Nepal based researchers have focused more on empirical analysis and their works lack equal engagement on the theoretical aspect of social and environmental justice.”

He is of the opinion that with different institutions of higher education and research in the UK, and a good record of scientists from all over the world working on science and technology, the country is a good destination for Nepali scientists.

He elaborates, “What’s more, there are a number independent research institutes, research labs and think tanks to work for. For those with expertise on medical and allied sciences, National Health Service is one of the biggest employers in the UK. As the immigration system has toughened over the years, only best and brightest get a chance to work in similar positions here. Hence, aspiring scientists and researchers should focus on fulfilling eligibility and enhance their skills and qualifications. There are plenty of opportunities; what Nepali scientists and researchers need is a right mix of inspiration, aspiration and hard work.”

Future plans

On whether he intends to return to Nepal, he says, “Due to the nature of my work, I see myself constantly shuttling between countries. I have recently developed two Nepal-focused research projects and submitted them for funding (the details of which I cannot reveal at the moment due to confidentiality issues). Through these and future projects, I plan to develop training workshops for junior researchers in Nepal and also encourage UK researchers for knowledge transfer, exchange visits, and capacity building.”

For Futher Questions: p.satyal.01@cantab.net

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Presented here are just a few of the Nepali scientists working in the UK and making contributions to their field of interest. There are many more in the UK in all kinds of diverse fields ranging from energy, biology, botany, physics, etc. DREAMS hopes to bring them to you, give readers opportunity to learn about their work, and be inspired by their example to pursue scientific fields anywhere in the world.

Nepal is not short of people with aptitude for science. Universities need to sincerely start considering investment in research, and also encourage the culture of research amongst students and teachers alike.

Imitating positive aspects of the work culture in the UK and also other countries, Nepal should build a science community that will not only persuade talented scientists to return and resume work in Nepal but also produce scientists and researchers of immense potential.

****

Text By: Pramila Rai 

  • Dr. Lata Gautam
  • Banner
  • Poshendra Satyal
  • Roshan Shrestha
  • Sujan Rajbhandari

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categorised in: Features, Technology

2 comments on “Burgeoning Career: Nepali Scientists in the UK

  1. Boz Baral says:

    … I quite like your intention of putting together a list of Nepalese who have justifiably secured what they are worth in this global market. May I also ask you to do produce a similar report like this about Nepalese talents in the City of London [i.e., Finance/Banking Industry], please? I know of a few who have already shown some potential to do well in this sector which could be an inspiration to younger generations of Nealese origin. Thank you.

    • Ramesh Lal Nakarmi says:

      Baral ji,

      Thank you for your comment and following our article/s.

      We would be glad to be able to write on other Nepali citizens doing significant works at other areas as well. Kindly do send us the list of names you have in your mind/contact along with their introductions, contact information and online references. Please kindly mail it to: editor@mydreamsmag.com

      We look forward to your mail.

      Best,
      Editor

Leave a Reply

Connect with:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CAPTCHA Image

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Related Articles