10 Questions with Hira Khalid
Hira Khalid, 30, from Pakistan is an Assistant Professor in Department of Chemistry at the Forman Christian College University Lahore, Pakistan.
She ia working on synthesis of biologically active heterocyclic compounds. The synthesized compounds characterized by different spectroscopy techniques. These compounds then screened against various enzymatic activities to evaluate their biological potential and developing their molecular models by docking study of potential compounds from the series. All the findings and conclusions then enable us to establish structure activity relationship which is main step for drug discovery.
Hira is a participant of the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.
Enjoy the interview with Hira and get inspired:
- What inspired you to pursue a career in science / chemistry?
Firstly, my parents induced love for science in me by developing reasoning and curiosity about life in my childhood. Curiosity of finding the answers of questions i.e. why trees have green leaves? How a patient can be cured with a medicine? How milk can transform into yogurt? Why I can see different colors in a fire work? How things look different in colors? Another great observation was that when I put water in refrigerator it gives beautiful crystal and of different shapes. There is a long list of smart questions which was answered by the Chemistry.
So after completing my matriculation in science I choose the pre-medical for Chemistry and Biology. I got admission in BS Chemistry and then MS and PhD in Chemistry which was truly because of my interest and love for Chemistry and desire for solving the problems for serving humanity.
- Who are your role models?
Many great people has inspired me as a role model and they are in different fields of life. There are male and females who have influenced me. Einstein, Ms. Fatima Jinnah, Celion Dion, Operah and many others. Dr Andrew J Boydston (University of Washington, seattle), Dr. Aziz-ur-Rehman (GC University Lahore) who were my research supervisors have influenced me a lot, they are working with excellence in their field of Chemistry and in their personal life.
In the field of Chemistry Madam Marie Curie, Robert Thomas, Stephanie Louise, Kwolek, Rosalind, Elsie Franklin has the strong impact on my passion for Chemistry. Though there are many other great women in Chemistry and it is hard to confine with few only. I like the women who pursue their education, career along with their family commitments and they have faced all the hardships and resistance because it was never been easy for a woman to pursue her dreams. It is worth mentioning that as a Women in general my grandmother is my role model who raised my mom with best traits and education even being single parent and without any financial support. My mother is my role model because she worked hard for carrying her education and then continuing her higher education with children and job but off course that was not possible without support of my father. She groomed us with all the best.
- How did you get to where you are in your career path?
In lighting about my background of Chemistry, I did my BSc (Hons.) Chemistry in 2005 and then MS in Chemistry in 2008 from Institute of Chemistry, University of the Punjab with specialization in Analytical Chemistry under supervision of Prof. Dr Jamil Anwer Ch. during my MS, I not only learnt the classical & modern techniques but also got the privilege of working with latest instruments e.g. HPLC, FTIR, GFA-Spectrometer, I got First Class in my B.Sc hons and MS degree and sustained my academic career being First Class.
After MS I received the Indigenous research scholarship for PhD from Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC). I did my PhD in Organic Chemistry from the Department of Chemistry, GC University Lahore in 2014 under the supervision of Dr. Aziz-ur-Rehman. The aim of my PhD research work was to synthesize novel compounds exhibiting diverse and improved pharmacological potential with an objective to search new contenders of drug with enhanced activity which could be helpful in controlling many degenerative diseases.
I was awarded “Best PhD Scholar of the year 2011-2012” award by departmental research committee on extraordinary research work in first year of my PhD. I was awarded International Research Support Initiative program award (IRSIP) to work with Boydston research group in University of Washington Seattle USA for six months as international student intern in 2013. I got privilege to work under supervision of distinguished Dr Andrew J Boydston on self-immolative polymer project. I used all advance equipment’s and got expertise in instruments e.g. GC-MS, AV-300, 301, 500 NMR and dry box. I was the first and only Pakistani student who got opportunity to work in University of Washington, Seattle as international student intern during my PhD where I not only improve my Chemistry but have learnt much about lab management, adaptation to different culture, socializing and interacting with people internationally. I participated in ICPAC 2012 which was organized in Mauritius where I was the only Pakistani student who gave oral presentation among 350 participants from 72 different countries. I was included as international advisory member for ICPAC 2014
I have served GC Women University Sialkot, Pakistan as Assistant Professor Chemistry since May 2015 to January 2017. I am an HEC approved research supervisor. I am affiliated with number of national and international societies, i.e IUPAC young fellow since 2010 till now, member American Oil’s Chemist’s Society (AOCS), life time member Chemical Society of Pakistan (CSP), American Chemical Society (ACS) Chemistry Ambassador, I have worked as Coordinator Chemistry award of National Academy of young scientists (NAYS) of Pakistan 2010-2013. I have more than 25 international research publications on my credit.
Currently, I feel proud to serve the Forman Christian College (FCC), a chartered University as an Assistant professor. FCCU has been served by a large number of distinguished educational leaders and teachers throughout its history. Dr CW Forman, Dr Sir JCR Ewing, Dr CH Rice, Dr ED Lucas, Dr SK Dutta, Dr HC Velte, Dr JH Orbison, Noble Laureate Dr Arthur Compton, Maulvi Muhammad Bakar, Dr HD Griswold, Prof JM Benade, Shamsul Ulema, Maulavi Muhammad Hussain, Dr KC Chatterji, Dr P Carter Speers, Dr SL Sheets, Prof MS Bhatti, Maulana Farzand Ali, Dr RH Ewing, Dr EJ Sinclair, Dr Robert F Tebbe and Dr Carl Wheeless are among many who have impacted the lives of students and shaped the future of the college through the years. Under their leadership, the college became widely regarded as one of the very best in the entire subcontinent.
- What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The coolest project is the project which I have started in my PhD and now I am advancing that project. It is most inspiring to synthesize poly-functional organic compounds with beautiful and complex heterocyclic ring from simple substrates and then conducting their computational studies in which I can see these synthesized compounds in a movement and their 3-D structures that how they will bind with protein to cure a disease.
- What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself / your work?
The day when I got the letter for being selected for the International Support Award by Higher Education Commission of Pakistan to work in University of Washington Seattle which is in top 30 world ranked universities and I was the only and very first Pakistani who got the opportunity to work in UW.
- What is a “day in the life” of Hira like?
My day started at 5am and I reach my University at 8am, I list “to do” for that day and then start my tasks. I enjoy teaching my students and then interacting with them regarding their research projects.
My each day is different form the other including the experience of class teaching. The exciting thing is this that the whole day is busy with teaching, departmental task, mentoring students, looking into results of my experiments and writing the results. To analyze the data after experiments is more exciting for me which involve the dedication, mental exercise. For me “day in life” is my each day when I accomplished my tasks and go through research articles and then on my arrival at home having quality time with my family.
- What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?
There are lot of things to accomplish as a career, completing the on-going projects of Baccalaureate, MS and PhD students as research supervisor. I am looking forward for my patent, developing the best collaboration with industry so they can invest in research projects which will improve the quality of research in pharmaceutical industry of Pakistan. I am also planning for prestigious fellowship for post doc specially Humboldt/Max Planck fellowship. Participating in international seminars and conferences for presenting my research work and presenting the role of women in science especially from a developing country which has impression of deprived women.
- What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
I like music, gardening and cooking and traveling, eating and playing with kids otherwise.
- What advice do you have for other women interested in science / chemistry?
If there is a will, there is a way. You can do anything just need to be focus and passionate. I firmly believe that if you are honest and genuine with what you want to do and you are not selfish with your loved ones, then your family will be your key support and you will achieve all the best in your life in all respects.
- In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in science / chemistry?
In my opinion the most emerging breakthrough will be the synthetic, responsive biopolymers which can trigger and stimulate under different factors within body.
What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?
We can have more female contribution as scientists and as professor by providing the opportunities for studies close to their towns so they faced less hardships. The jobs must address the other genuine issues of Women as they are playing double role in comparison to men that they have to give full time in their jobs and managing their family life.
There is a great need of providing exclusive research funding and fellowships for Women scientists because they have to struggle much harder for developing research collaborations and then pursuing international funding. In cases of developing country like Pakistan we not having good research funding from industries, locally and find very few funding organizations who are focusing on women so we can benefit by their vision and intellectual capacities.
There is a need to announce research funding for women across the globe by the prestigious sponsors of science and education to empower women. Developing countries are facing these challenges more even then underdeveloped one.