10 Pakistani Giants in Science

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10 Pakistani Giants in Science

Not only is Pakistan a land of great resources, but over the years our country has produced great minds which have not only made a name for themselves but also for Pakistan across the whole world. Whether it is biosciences, physics, or medical science, these incredible individuals have shown everyone what their true potential is through their hard work and genius.

This Independence Day, we honour 10 such Pakistani Giants in Science, who have done their country proud with their substantial contributions to the international scientific community and the world!

Dr. Abdus Salam

Theoretical Physicist and Nobel Laureate

A theoretical physicist and the only scientist from Pakistan to win a Nobel Prize, Dr. Abdus Salam is an unforgettable name when it comes to great minds. His significant contributions were in quantum electrodynamics and quantum field theory where he introduced the concept of chiral symmetry in the theory of neutrinos and later went on to work on the grand unified theory which was a breakthrough of that time and honored him the noble prize in 1979. He also has been the founder of multiple research institutes like the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission of Pakistan. He was also the founder of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy which is now known as the Abdul Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics. When asked about his country in 1984, Dr. Salam replied “I was born a Pakistani and I will die a Pakistani. My genes were formed here, no one can deprive me of these rights”. He died peacefully on 20 November 1996 at the age of 70 in England and is buried in Chiniot, Punjab.

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan

Nuclear Physicist, Metallurgical Engineer
(Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-i-Imtiaz)

Known by most in Pakistan as Mohsin-e-Pakistan, Abdul Qadeer Khan is a well-known nuclear physicist and a metallurgical engineer who is credited as the person responsible for making Pakistan the first Muslim and the 7th atomic power in 1998 by conducting 6 successful experiments of nuclear bombs explosions. Dr. Qadeer also founded the uranium enrichment program for Pakistan based on ultracentrifuges and then in 1976, he established the Kahuta Research Laboratories. His contributions are not only limited to that, throughout his scientific career, Dr. Khan has also been recognized in several ways and has published more than 190 scientific research papers in international journals. Even though his major focus was on nuclear physics, Dr. Khan was an important figure in many national projects like those of molecular morphology, the physics of martensite alloys and materials physics. He was awarded multiple honorary degrees and is the only Pakistani to receive the Nishan-i-Imtiaz twice, in 1996 and 1998.

Dr. Qasim Mehdi

Molecular Biologist

Syed Qasim Mehdi was a brilliant renowned Pakistani molecular biologist. After completing his studies, he served as the head of Biomedical and Genetic Engineering Division of Dr. Qadeer Khan Labs and later become the Head of National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Lahore. But his main contributions were as the member of the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) where he was among the pioneer figures in the initiation of this project at the Stanford University. During the human genome project, Dr. Mehdi and his team did some groundbreaking work on the human population genetics related to human features and their major contribution was towards the understanding of light and dark skin shades of human skin. Dr. Mehdi has published over 200 publications, including papers in Science and Genome Research. He was awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz and Sitara-i-Imtiaz by Pakistan and Sigma Xi Award by the American society. He died in Lahore on 28 September 2016.

Dr. Tasneem Zehra Hussain

Theoretical Physicist

Being a theoretical physicist and the first Pakistani woman to work on string theory, Tasneem Hussain is a well-known name in the scientific community of Pakistan. Tasneem Husain obtained her Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from Stockholm University in 2003 and from there she set off her career in physics. She joined the University of Management Sciences’s School of Science and Engineering and started her academic research which mainly focused on string theory where she worked on using 11-dimensional supergravity in order to classify the flux backgrounds that arise due to supersymmetric cycles, a research which was a hot topic at that time in the world and a totally new thing in Pakistan. Throughout her career, Tasneem Husain has always made great efforts to make the basics of theoretical physics accessible to high-school students of her country. She also released her first novel, “Only the Longest Threads” in 2014 which was a global success.

Dr. Sania Nishtar


Sania Nishtar is a Pakistani cardiologist, author and the present Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Dr. Nishtar received her Ph.D. in Medicine from King’s College London. Throughout her career, she has made enormous contributions to the public health, education and science sectors of Pakistan. Currently, she is serving as the co-chairperson of WHO’s High-Level Commission on Non-communicable diseases in the world where she is the only person representing the country. Other than that she is also the co-chair of WHO commission of ending obesity since the year 2014 and is also serving as the leading candidate for the director-general of WHO in 2017 where she was among the 3 shortlisted members thus being the first woman from a developing country to reach that level. Sania Nishtar was awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz and has been made a member of Medical Mission Hall of Fame in Toledo in 2011. In 2014, she was mentioned in the list of “Most Influential Women in Science in the Islamic World

Dr. Atta ur Rahman

Organic Chemist

Atta-ur-Rahman is a well-known specialist in the field of Organic Chemistry and is the only scientist to be elected as a member of the Royal Society of UK since 2006. Dr. Rehman received his Ph.D. as well as his Sc.D. in organic chemistry from Cambridge. After returning to Pakistan, Dr. Rehman became the founding chairperson of HEC Pakistan. Under his leadership, the German academic reviews the situation of the education sector in Pakistan as “A miracle happened”. Throughout his career, Dr, Rehman published almost 1,133 publications which included almost 244 books, 770 research publications, round about 65 chapters in books and 45 international patents. Due to all these achievements, he was elected as a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and thus he became the first Muslim scientist to be given that honor. He has been conferred with four Government of Pakistan civil awards and in 1999 he was also the first Muslim to receive the UNESCO Science Prize. Due to his contribution, several institutions have been named after him on national and well as international level.

Ms. Aban Marker Kabraji

Conservation Biologist

A brilliant Pakistani biologist and the current Regional Director of the Asia International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Ms. Kabraji today holds the position of being the top Pakistani environmentalist at an international level. She completed her education from the University of London. In the year 1988, she associated herself with the International Union for Conservation of Nature when she joined as the representative from Pakistan. Since then, Ms. Kabraji has provided a well-organized strategic leadership for the Asia Regional Office of the IUCN which includes the overlooking of 11 countries having nearly 300 staff and around 70 environmental initiatives. She is also serving as the Chair of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network in the world. She also made efforts in her early career for the conservation of green turtles on the coasts of Pakistan. In recognition of her efforts, Ms. Kabraji was awarded the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz in 2018.

Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy

Nuclear Physicist

Dr. Hoodhboy is a nuclear physicist who is currently a leading activist of Pakistan promoting the betterment of freedom of speech and education in the country. He received his early education from Karachi and later went out to receive a Ph.D. in nuclear physics in the year 1981 at the University of Washington. On returning to his country, he became a researcher at LUMS and was also serving as the sponsor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. He also became the member of the panel on terrorism in the World Federation of Scientist. Dr. Hoodbhoy’s main focus of his research career was on quantum field theory and supersymmetry in the area of particle physics. He had close ties with Pakistan’s vibrant nuclear society which was working on making the country a nuclear power at that time. He also played a major role in the development of the National Center for Physics (NCP). Throughout his life, he always has highly criticized the HEC by calling its efforts “a drive to achieve numbers rather than quality”. In 2001 he was offered Sitara-i-Imtiaz which Dr. Hoodhboy refused to accept.

Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed

Nuclear Physicist
(Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-i-Imtiaz)

Ishfaq Ahmad (D.Sc., Minister of State, Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-i-Imtiaz, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, FPAS) was a Pakistani nuclear physicist, Professor Emeritus of high-energy physics at the National Center for Physics, and former science advisor to the Government of Pakistan. Dr. Ahmad made significant contributions in the theoretical development of particle physics, and its relative extension to quantum electrodynamics, as a senior research scientist at CERN in 1960s and 1970s. Prior to this, Dr. Ahmad served as the Director of the Nuclear Physics Division at the secret Pinstech Institute which developed the first designs of Pakistan’s atomic bombs, a clandestine project during the post-1971 war. He then went on to serve the Government as Science Advisor to the Prime Minister and a Minister of State. Dr. Ahmed passed away on 18th January, 2018, aged 87.

Dr. Nargis Mavalvala


Nargis is a Pakistani-American astrophysicist who is well-known for her contributions in the first observation of gravitational waves. Dr. Mavalvala was raised in Karachi from where she passed her A and O levels. Later she went on to the US and did her Ph.D. in astrophysics from MIT in 1997. After finishing her education, Dr. Mavalvala started her research work with under the guidance of Dr. Rainer Weiss, it was during her work that Dr. Mavalvala developed a prototype for a laser interferometer for detecting gravitational waves in the space. Throughout her career, her focus remained on two fields of physics: gravitational waves astrophysics and quantum science. Her breakthrough was in January 2016 when the ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves were observed. Dr. Mavalvala was working on this thing since 1991. The discovery confirmed an important prediction in the theory of relativity. After the discovery, she said in her interview with Dawn Pakistan, “I want people to know in Pakistan as I have garnered some attention there. Anybody should be able to succeed — whether you’re a woman or a religious minority”. She was awarded the first Lahore Technology Award in December 2017.

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