India Connection 2

Sultana Nahar

Jamal Khan of Wildlife Science Department

Professor Jamal Khan of Wildlife Science Department. He is in charge of providing the facilities for the OSU-AMU Center. Wildlife Science Founder Professor Musavi is on the right in the background.

Lecture at Physics Department, University of Delhi

Lecture at the Physics Department, University of Delhi.

Participants at International Women's Day

Participants at the celebration of International Women’s Day.

AMU gave the Indian emblem trophy to both Nahar and Pradhan

AMU gave the Indian emblem trophy to both Nahar and Pradhan for contributions to science and STEM ER to Indian institutions under the Obama-Singh initiative.

Physics teacher and student award winners

Physics teacher and student award winners (with yellow envelopes) at the University of Kashmir.

This article is the second part of a report on a 2-month visit to India which began in January 2014. That first part is printed in the Spring 2014 issue.

STEM Faculty Training Program

The Obama-Singh initiative is a multi-year program for collaboration and partnership for educational reform, economic growth, and the development of junior faculty funded by the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF). Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative awards will be distributed for 5 years, but a recipient of the award will be supported for 3 years. Although there is much excellent work in India, the quality of education is low on an international scale. Young minds desire to learn, but the needed infrastructure for the 150 million students with 300,000 faculty members is missing.

The Ohio State University (OSU) award under the initiative is for faculty training in partnership with Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Uttar Pradesh and is called “Training the Next Generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Faculty at Higher Education Institutions in India in education and research (ER).”

Anil Pradhan, Karen Irving, Adrian Rodgers, and I developed a new dual-degree program. The participants will receive from OSU a Master’s Degree in Education with specialization in STEM ER and a Ph.D. from their home institution in India. Under the program selected students will come to OSU for a year, enroll in classes in the education department, and carry out research in their area of interest in STEM departments. Credit hours in the education and STEM departments will be about equal. The students will continue research and gain field experience in teaching in their home institution in India for another year before receiving the Master’s Degree from OSU. They will also have a research project done under an OSU advisor which can become part of their Ph.D. thesis. Their Indian advisors will collaborate in the project.

OSU is contributing tuition and research facilities to this pilot program. AMU, its Indian partner is contributing by building the OSU-AMU Center of Excellence with smart classrooms having fast internet connections for distant learning courses. The OSU-AMU Center is housed in the Wildlife Science Center at AMU. The Wildlife Science Center carries out research on animals and is itself a landmark. The first of its kind in India, it was founded in 1986 by AMU Professor Abbas Hussain Musavi after his work in a similar department at the University of Colorado.

In March four AMU Ph.D. students, two men, Asim Rizvi (Biochemistry) and Malik Azeem Anwar (Zoology), and two women, Hala (Physics) and Nida Rehmani (Biochemistry), were selected as STEM ER Fellows.

Pradhan and I shared teaching a course “Radiation physics: Astronomy to Biomedicine” at AMU during February and March. The course covered a number of areas: atomic physics, astrophysics, plasma physics, molecular physics, biophysics, and included a workshop on the use of large codes for atomic structure calculations and collision processes. A total of 128 AMU postgraduate students, researchers and faculty members from Physics, Chemistry, and Engineering enrolled.

We also shared the same course at the University of Delhi (UD) during February and March. At UD 87 postgraduate students, researchers and faculty members sighed up and received certificates at the end of the course. Participants at AMU and UD did equally well in the final examination.

Currently in August 2014, the Ph.D. student Fellows of AMU are taking their first class under the program. In June, OSU started the six weeks long distant learning class. Being the first of its kind for international live teaching for both OSU and AMU, each institution had to solve technical difficulties. There were power outages during the monsoon season that would take down the internet. There were also problems with delay in information transmission during questions, answers and comments.

Aligarh-Nano 4 International Conference at AMU, March 8-10, 2014

OSU, through the STEM ER program, was one of the sponsors along with a number of Indian organizations. It was a lively and successful conference with 45 invited talks, about 300 contributed oral presentations and posters from the US, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Bahrain, Yemen, and Russia. I was a convener of the conference and coordinated in bringing a number of international speakers.

A list of the technical sessions will give the reader a sense for the scope of the conference:
  • Nanotechnology for defense and military applications
  • Synthesis and characterization techniques of nanomaterials
  • Nanotechnology for harnessing energy
  • Nanomaterials in food, agriculture and water purification
  • Nanoparticles for engineering materials
  • Magnetic nanoparticles and applications
  • Nanoparticles based drug targeting
  • Nanomedicine and health care
  • Nanoelectronics, nanosensors and MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems)
  • Bionanotechnology
  • Nanocosmetics and household products
  • Graphene and its nanocomposites
  • Organic and inorganic nanocomposites.

The local host, Aligarh Nanomaterials Center of Excellence, is doing well. It added seven more items to the number of newly invented products. Their herbal insecticide gives robust growth to flowers and they have obtained cheap fuel from animal fat.

Travel to Educational Institutions and Networking

Continuation of the OSU-AMU program depends on its success and also the ability to receive grants from Indian granting agencies, and/or support from other institutions who will enroll their students for the program.

To promote the program our OSU team visited a number of research oriented institutions as well as universities having large undergraduate enrollments and some postgraduate research. We gave seminars on physics applications, held meetings, met relevant people, and made connections with OSU alumni.

The Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) in Bangalore, has the oldest observatory in India. An evening dinner reception at IIA hosted by recently elected APS Fellow Dr. Bhanu Das provided a networking opportunity. We spent a day at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) located by the Arabian Sea in Mumbai. TIFR has the best research facility in India and also has received the largest research grants in India. Both IIA and TIFR have funds to support students doing research. Tata has now opened a new institute for faculty training.

We visited several private universities: Jain University in Bangalore, and Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology and Thakur’s College of Engineering both in Mumbai. These institutions are affiliated with a government accredited university for awarding the degrees. Students who are not admitted to central or state universities often are admitted to a private university, where there is a high tuition. They follow the same syllabus as in the affiliated university, take the same examinations and are granted the degree from the affiliated university. When the institution achieves a required standard and success, it applies for the ability to award independent degrees. These private universities were not very interested in our program since they are doing well already and spending money for faculty training is not necessary.

Indian educators with research objectives appreciate the Obama-Singh program and are hopeful for its success. Dr. Abul Hasan Siddiqi of the AMU-DUTY Society [1] and ISIAM [2] organized a meeting to learn details and explore ways to implement enhancements in STEM education and research. This meeting was held in the Habitat Center in Delhi on January 28, 2014 and attended by professors, Vice Chancellors, researchers, and educators. They came from many institutions: Sharda Ruhilkhand and Gautom Budhdha Universities (both in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradash State), Jamia Millia Islamia University (Delhi), Punjabi University Patiala, Tripura University (Agartala, Tripura State), Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (Delhi), Birla Institute of Technology (Mesra, Ranchi Jharkhand) and Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh).

The Odisha Society of Americas [3] is working with the Odisha (formerly known as Orissa) government and us to implement the program in Odisha.

OSU alumni, who returned to India, have been doing quite well. They like to hear positive news of OSU and are pleased to help us promote our program. We met one group in Delhi and another in Mumbai. Some of them have been entrepreneurial in starting companies in computer data analysis transmission, solar cell distribution to villages, children’s schools with hands-on education in science, as well as holding high level official positions. OSU has opened up its own office in Mumbai (following the one in Shanghai, China), to keep alumni connected for promotion and networking.

International Women’s Day (IWD), March 8, 2014

Aligarh Muslim University traditionally observes International Women’s Day. On behalf of the International Society of Muslim Women in Science (ISMWS) I joined Physics Chair Professor Rahimullah Khan in observing the day and took the opportunity to promote and support Muslim women members of AMU to do well in science. Professor Khan invited 60 notable women educators to the program, Professor Zakia Siddiqui, a well know activist for women’s education, as the Chief Guest and me as the Guest of Honor. Haris Kunari (Ph.D. physics student) was most helpful in arranging the event. Professor Siddiqui emphasized education and financial independence for women. Event convener Bilqees Banu, biochemistry professor and past chair, spoke of promotions for professional women and that their role as a mother and maintainer of the family needs to be part of the consideration. I presented ISMWS and explained why more women should be in science. Twenty women received recognition at the event.

Awards for Best Teaching, Research Publications, and Awards to Students

Aligarh Muslim University distributed annual Sultana N. Nahar teaching awards in Physics from the trust that I have established and sponsored. Each award consists of a certificate and honorarium of Rs.18,000 (~$350). Annual student awards will be distributed later in the year. The two best B.Sc. students, male and female, will each receive Rs.10,000 (~ $200 and the two best Ph.D. students, male and female, Rs.15,000 (~ $300) along with certificates.

This year there was close competition among the award winners. Professor Badruddin received the distinguished teacher of the year award. For the best teacher of the year awards, two faculty members, Professors Sabbir Ahmad and Abbas Ali were chosen. The best teacher in the women’s college award went to Professor Nasra Neelofar.

The University of Kashmir (U of K) is next to Dal Lake and mountains. Kashmir is a beautiful state, but people in general are poor and heating in their houses is poor. So each person carries a Kangri (a small basket containing burning charcoal) underneath his/her loose warm clothes and they drink lots of tea. During a short visit in March, as at AMU, I promoted physics education, teaching and research. Awards from my trust were given for best research, and best students in B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. programs in both male and female categories. The Vice Chancellor (VC) Professor Talat Ahmad was most helpful in working out the award program details. The public physics seminar presentation and award ceremony was announced in the Greater Kashmir newspaper. Even with snow covered roads, many people in physics and non-physics as well came for the event. For the 2013-2014 academic year, the winners are Professor Javid Ahmad Shaikh for distinguished teacher, Professor Basharat Want for distinction in teaching, Dr. Gowhar Hossain for the best Ph.D. thesis, Jahoor Ahmad (male) for the best M.Sc. thesis, Nuzhat Nazirr (female) for the best M.Sc. thesis, Tahir Rashid (male) for the best B.Sc. student, Iqra Jan (female) for the best B.Sc. student.

Professor Ahmad and I discussed possible participation in the Obama-Singh STEM ER program, a Memorandum of Agreement between OSU and (U of K) and upgrades for the Gulmarh telescope operated by U of K.

At a full house at the women’s college I spoke about science and ISMWS. Boards were placed over the snow for people to walk to the event.

Our team from the Ohio State University accomplished many of our objectives during our stay in India. The visit also gave me the opportunity to make progress and complete some of my own educational work in India, separate from the OSU program.


1. DUTY. The Duty Society (Anjuman-Al-Farz) was founded in 1889 to establish a permanent fund to support poor and needy students.

2. ISIAM. The Indian Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

3. The Orissa Society of the Americas, or OSA, is an organization whose stated goals are to promote the culture of the Indian state of Orissa (on the eastern coast) in the United States and Canada, and to facilitate the exchange of information between Orissa and North America.

Dr. Sultana N. Nahar is a research scientist in the Department of Astronomy at Ohio State University and an elected member of the FIP Executive Committee. She has published extensively on radiative and collisional atomic processes in astrophysical and laboratory plasmas, and also worked on dielectronic satellite lines, theoretical spectroscopy, and computational nanospectroscopy for biomedical applications. Sultana Nahar is the winner of the APS 2013 John Wheatley Award. Email:

Disclaimer - The articles and opinion pieces found in this issue of the APS Forum on International Physics Newsletter are not peer refereed and represent solely the views of the authors and not necessarily the views of the APS.