Computer Doctor

After completing his Phd in Computer Science, Syed Iqbal landed a Post Doctorate Fellowship in the subject – a first for a J & K resident. Shazia Yousuf reports

Growing up in a village of Beerwah Budgam, Syed Iqbal Ahmad didn’t have much to explore. But he had a habit of thinking big. “I would dream a lot,” he says.

His dreams came true when he bagged the gold medal for his Phd degree in Computer sciences from the American International University. The gold medal also fetched him a post doctoral fellowship- a first for a Kashmiri.

For Iqbal , the journey on this path started at Mazar-ul-Haq school- a local village school in Beerwah. He passed his higher secondary school examination in science in the year 2002. After this for some time he faced a dilemma of what to chose for his higher studies. “Going for a simple graduate course was not what I wanted. I didn’t know people, had no contacts in city, but certainly I wanted to and had to do something different.” says Iqbal.

Soon someone came to him with advice for doing a graduate course in computers. Iqbal ponderd over the matter for some time and finally made the choice in favour of the preposition. He packed his bags and headed to Jammu.
There he enrolled at the Excel College of Education, a college affiliated to JNU, and completed his BCA (Bachelors in Computer Application) in 2006. After that he enrolled for MCA (Masters in Computer Application)in the same college, which he completed in 2008.

It was at this time that he accompanied parents his parents on pilgrimage to the Ajmer. It was here that his future course in life was decided. “We were sitting in the compound of the shrine and I saw a PhD notification published in the Times of India which I borrowed from a person sitting by our side.” says Iqbal.

He left for Delhi and submitted an application form for PhD in American International University, where he was granted admission after qualifying a stringent admission exam. He was the only Kashmiri among the 31 selected for the program.

During the course of his doctoral studies, Iqbal didn’t face one but set of problems. Financially he was always insecure because his father was the only earning hand of the family of nine. Then coming from a remote village, he had to learn everything anew. But the biggest problem he says, was being a Kashmiri Muslim.

“The armed conflict back home wouldn’t spare me here too. Dozens of times I was taken in the middle of night from my hostel room to police station. For months together I would report in the local police station on daily basis. Many times I thought of leaving it there only.” he recalls.

Iqbal bore every onslaught on his determination and grit. By the end of year 2009 he completed his PhD on the topic “Gap between Internet and web”.  He won the gold medal for topping the Phd program.

It was due to this gold medal that Iqbal was also offered his dream project- a Post Doctorate Fellowship in the form of a state level project from the American International University on which he is working at present. “The project is my dream project. It concerns developing scientific attitude and efficiency in the state administration through application of computer science,” he says.

However on his return to the state, he was disgusted to see the work culture in government departments.  “My project involved department to department surveys. But shockingly there was no online monitoring system. For days I couldn’t even meet a concerned officer. There were computers but no operators. It was all chaos,” he recalls.

Iqbal came up with some steps that if taken could make unexpected improvements in the system. And then he approached the Chief Minister with his suggestions. “I gave a presentation before Chief Minister Omer Abdullah in his Jammu residence, where I convinced him that computerization of the departments could bring in transparency and help in keeping check on the corruption.”says Iqbal who further adds that the chief minister was so impressed with him that he offered him a job as State Program Manager. However Iqbal could not accept this job because of his fellowship project.

Among various measures like online monitoring system and public grievance redressal system suggested by Iqbal, some have been implemented.

Iqbal has already started getting offers from foreign countries. However for him, the ultimate target is yet to be achieved, “I have to make it to NASA. Once my post doctoral fellowship project is completed I will apply for it,” he divulges.

As advice to computer science students, Iqbal says, “Do not learn in packages. Rather stress on the language and basics. Once you know the language, you can create your own software and then, only the sky is limit to what you can earn.”


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