Nano Aspirations

   

Schooled in South Kashmir’s Tral, Samiullah did his engineering and later pursued higher studies in nanotechnology. Currently a research associate at the UK’s University of Bristol, he is busy with a post-doc that may help manage industrial wastewaters better, reports Mujtaba Hussain

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Tral-born Samiullah completed his primary education at the Madrassa Taleemul Islam (MTI) and pursued his secondary education at the Government Higher Secondary School Tral. Later, he joined the Modern Institute of Engineering and Technology (MIET), affiliated with Jammu University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering.

Despite holding an engineering degree, Sami felt stagnant in his career. Although he aimed to start earning, his mother encouraged him to continue his studies. Following her advice, he enrolled in a Nanotechnology program at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.

His two-year stint at JMI exposed him to various opportunities within Nano Sciences. “I applied for a PhD programme at National Tsinghua University (NTHU), Taiwan, and for the Chinese Government Scholarship for International Students. I was selected for both but chose to go to Taiwan,” Samiullah said. “There, I worked in the Department of Material Science Engineering for almost ten months on Material Science-specific subjects, especially 2D materials for batteries and super-capacitors.”

Later, Sami learned about the Zutshi Smith Scholarship offered by the University of Bristol in the UK, specifically for Indian and Kashmiri-origin students. He qualified for the IELTS exam while in Taiwan and applied for a doctorate in Functional Nanomaterials at the School of Physics at the University of Bristol. Leaving his Taiwan venture unfinished, he moved to the UK for a PhD in 2018. He now works as a Research Associate in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.

Achievements

While pursuing his Master’s at Jamia Millia, Sami worked on creating and manipulating things at the nano-scale. He spent 18 months as a taught programme learner and six months as a research applicant in a CSIR-affiliated lab in Pilani, Rajasthan.

Discussing his motivation for further research and pursuing a doctoral degree in Functional Nanomaterials, specifically focusing on the Functionalisation of Diamond Surfaces for Thermionic Emission, Samiullah described his early inclination and innate aptitude for the Natural Sciences. “The experience I gained during my master’s degree and the research work on Graphene-based gas sensors at the CSIR-associated lab deepened my interest in exploring new frontiers in Nano Science,” Samiullah said.

Samiullah (Scientist)

Samiullah’s thesis project involved studying Functionalised Diamond Surfaces for energy applications, particularly investigating sustainable and efficient means of terminating a diamond surface to produce low work functions for Thermionic emission. During his PhD, he learned various computational and experimental techniques alongside his core subject.

“The outcome of my PhD research demonstrated that diamonds could be used for thermionic emission-based devices and sustainably terminated using abundant, non-toxic metals,” he explained. “These metals effectively yielded negative electron affinity and lower work functions on the diamond surface in an inexpensive, sustainable manner.”

Guiding Offshore Admissions

Elaborating on how to approach the application process for admissions abroad, Samiullah said the students should seek what interests them and work diligently towards their goals. Studying abroad for a Master’s programme in Europe, the USA, or Australia can be costly, but many scholarships are available. These scholarships are competitive but achievable with a well-thought-out strategy.

“For Doctorate programmes, it is crucial to prepare documents and apply for scholarships during the final semester of the Master’s degree,” he said. “Shortlist professors to work with and email them directly. Candidates applying to UK or US universities should qualify for the IELTS/TOEFL before applying for scholarships. When writing to professors, show enthusiasm and exceptional qualifications so that they may recommend you as a potential candidate.”

Future Plans

“I have not yet achieved much in the field of Nanoscience, and I won’t claim that my research has brought significant change,” Samiullah admitted. “Many are working in this field, trying to create a positive impact. For me, there is still much to learn and accomplish.”

In his current role at the University of Bristol, Sami is learning about sustainable and biogenic ways of making nanoparticles. He is working on synthesising magnetic nanoparticles from industrial wastewaters using bacteria, a cause he finds fulfilling. Sami aspires to enter academia, sharing his knowledge in classrooms to serve society. Pursuing another post-doctorate to deepen his understanding of Nano Science is also on his agenda.

For Kashmiri Students

Samiullah encourages students to strive and struggle, regardless of tough situations or feelings of hopelessness. “Feeling anxious and depressed is natural, but growth always lies outside the comfort zone,” he said. “I used to think only the rich and privileged could afford quality higher education abroad. However, I have seen less privileged people from poor countries studying on fully funded scholarships in high-income countries. Perseverance, dedication, self-belief, and faith in God matter most.”

Sami advises Kashmiri students to explore numerous fully funded scholarships in the USA, UK, Australia, Korea, Japan, and other countries. “Getting out of their comfort zone and using the internet for their best interest is a better strategy that can yield the desired outcome,” he insisted. “Kashmiri students must strive for better opportunities worldwide to make life more convenient for themselves and Kashmir.”

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