Allegory of Teaching, German, c. 1600; oil on ...

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I love teaching and carrying out research. Something tells me I will make a great professor. Should I take this career route?

I don’t know about the long term trend, but this semester has been marvelous so far. I have a wonderful group of students. They are smart, interactive, and sincere with their work.  They are respectful of others and create an amiable classroom environment. It’s been fun teaching to them, not just presenting them with information and knowledge they don’t know about, but helping them think through problems and scenarios, and prodding them to ask questions before accepting everything I say. I love it when they ask questions in class or put forward their opinions and sometimes even differ with me. I have already learned a lot from them and I am sure I will continue to in the future. I wonder who wouldn’t love to teach if they had students like I do?

For my friend who is in love with Japanese cuisine.

Shrimp Tempura Roll.

Scientists working in a laboratory

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There are many problems that scientists and researchers face in Nepal. Few of them which I think need to be addressed are as follows:

1) Lack of a portal where a scientist or researcher can get all the information – involved institutions and organizations, research works and areas, publications, grants and funds, current news, conferences and seminars, forums – she/he wants. This is in addition to (see 2)

2) Fractionated responsibilities and work among different but related Ministries, agencies, organizations and educational institutes along with lack of proper communication and collaboration. These currently waste a lot of time and are causes of frustration and stress among scientists and researchers.

3) Little to none research initiatives,  research and grant guidelines and administrative support in Academia along with failure to encourage students to enter into research.

4) Lack of maintenance in quality and fund of the currently existing scientific and research organizations and societies. Existing research institutions can better its organization and administration, and avail itself without any political interference for the needs of scientists and researchers.

5) Lack of proper data collection and data management, and often reluctant and slow service provided by agencies and organizations which have data.  Data sharing should be encouraged and practiced. This not only increases the use of available data in publishable work, but also helps to improve the data collection and quality over time. If reluctance in service is due to fear of data thieves, it would be better to have policies and contracts which let the user use the data but protect the original data collectors rights and ideas.

6) Over reliance on outside experts in few areas of study. An expert’s view matters, however, the country should also encourage the growth of its own scientists in stead of always seeking affirmation or advice from outside.

7) Lack of access to newer technologies and analyses methods. Newer technologies may cost a lot of money, so  lack of  access to them in Nepal immediately after their release is understandable; however, seminars and trainings to boost the knowledge of scientists and researchers can be and should be conducted from time to time and within Nepal. As with any other areas, scientific and research area is also fraught with corruption and idling away of time. There are many who fly to other countries not with a purpose to learn something new, but with the sole purpose to visit a new place –  to get that stamp on the passport. Is it ok to waste the precious grant money for something that can be arranged at home?

8) Lack of quality control in research methods and what is considered publishable. It’s not that Nepal doesn’t publish any research work. It does, however, often times, these works consist of poor writing and analyses. Most of the articles published in reputed journals come from Nepali scientists and researchers who work and live abroad, and not from those in Nepal.

9) Lack of timely acknowledgement of work and incentives for scientists and researchers to pursue their work in Nepal. It’s precisely the lack of this along with the above mentioned difficulties that finally pushes the scientists and researchers to seek greener pastures abroad, where they and their work are not only acknowledged but respected on time and with big incentives.

Always wanted to write on this, but never did. So, here is one written by somebody else with whom I completely agree.

Keep Your Coat Off Public Restroom Floors, Please. Last week here in the book store, I was in the restroom washing my hands–scrub 20 seconds, kids!– when I glanced to my left and saw that someone was in the nearest of two toilet stalls. He wore dirty white Reeboks, the kind I would have loved in the early 90s. Big deal, right? Well, the guy had his coat on the floor in front of him. Ewwww! As … Read More

via plum bananas

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It’s been less than a week I’ve been in Kathmandu, but I think I have already experienced much of what makes Kathmandu a pig’s sty and Nepal a failed state. It had come as a grief when I first read those words in Foreign Policy magazine, Nepal ranked among failed states. I was defiant to some extent, I confess, but slowly I had begun to agree with it. However, I agree with a condition. Nepal will remain a failed state if we sit idle, accepting things as they happen and if we rely on someother person to bring the change. Change, I think, all Nepalese want, but when you pose them a question “what are you doing about it, for whatever change you want to see”, there is only one reply, “what can we do, nobody does anything, this is Kathmandu (or this is Nepal)”. The whole problem lies here, I think, Nepalese want change, but they want others to bring it. Now, who is the “other” person or people?

What keeps Nepal behind in development? Much touted reasons have been political, lack of natural resources and human power and the ensuing economic incredibility for international investment or the lack of a sea port for easy, much cheaper mode of trade. But I think, it also has to do with people’s attitude, the attitude of accepting what is present without a question which is equivalent to the attitude of ignoring what the problems are, the attitude of inaction on their part to solve social, ethical and environmental concerns, the attitude of gross annoyance and indignation upon being informed, the extreme reliance on “others” for change, basically boiling down to lack of civic responsibility. I don’t expect all Nepalese to act big, but even if daily routines are carried out in a responsible fashion, I expect big changes to happen by themselves.

Here’s my experience from yesterday. I was in a safaa tempo, a public transport running on three wheels and cramped with people within its limited space. I was already irritated for having to sit with total strangers in such proximity all made worse with their lack of personal hygiene, but to add to all this annoyance, I couldn’t stop noticing a mother, around 35 I am guessing, and her daughter around 8 or 9 years old who was munching on instant noodle, totally nonchalant about the environment around them. I couldn’t fathom how a mother could let her child eat in such a place, where dust is being blown all over her from the streets outside. But what made it even worse was her daughter’s action, as soon as she finished her food, she very casually threw the empty packet out of the tempo onto the street. As soon as she did that, I called hers and her mother’s attention to that. However, in return I got defensive and rather unintelligent comments back. It is a very shameful act that the mother should defend her daughter’s action rather than telling her that she should refrain from dirtying public places. Of seven other people in the tempo besides me and these two culprits, if I may call them so, only one woman, probably in her early 40s, supported my action and added that it was a mother’s responsibility to teach her children what is wrong and right. All the others were passive onlookers enjoying the exchanges between me and the irresponsible mother. And to my dismay, they were all male, worthless denizens of Kathmandu city, contributing silently as they have always done to the perpetuation of doom and gloom of Kathmandu. After a while, there was silence, I gave up trying to persuade her that it is everyone’s duty to keep the city clean. I got off at my destination and still heated from the little incident, I talked to my mom about it. I think all I was asking for was a little support for my action, but my mom was much more worried about my safety. Tales of looting and beating in broad day light is becoming common in Kathmandu, and she told me I could have been beaten up for this if I was alone. I understand her sentiments from a mother’s point of view, but really I can’t be a passive onlooker.

So, I’ve been thinking how civic responsibility can be instilled into people? How can they be informed that changes come from within us all? I said the woman from the tempo made unintelligent comments, do these come from lack of proper education or is it cultural and used as means for protecting one’s pride? I didn’t mean to insult her, but it seemed to me that she preferred exonerating herself and her daughter even if it meant making stupid replies. Later in the evening, I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the things she had said: “if she (her daughter) doesn’t throw the packet outside, where is she going to keep it?” followed instantly by “should I put it inside your bag, are you going to give your bag to me?” My reply had been, “why don’t you keep it with you and throw it in a rubbish bin after you get off” at which she rolled her eyes and said, “you can’t talk to a child like this.” I had replied, “Well, in that case, being a mother you should be ashamed of what you just allowed your daughter to do.” I suddenly caught myself for my choice of word. I was too harsh, I should have refrained from using the word “ashamed”, but thankfully, the other woman supported me. May be I should be grateful that I wasn’t pushed out the tempo tragically bringing an end to my campaign to educate Nepalese.

Warning:  Tempos should be avoided by anyone with a back problem, especially if traveling on uneven streets.