Azqa Nadeem – Thinking beyond infinity
Azqa Nadeem is one of the very few Pakistanis to ever get selected for the CERN summer program. Azqa completed her Bachelors in Computer Science from SEECS NUST recently and graduated with a President’s medal for achieving a 4.0 CGPA. She may not sound completely human, but she is like any other girl in several ways. She loves learning new things, swimming, athletics, cats and rabbits.
Azqa’s dad is an engineer and her mother has studied Medicine, which implies that both of them are studious people, and are thus really concerned about their children’s studies and are extremely concerned about their future. However, Azqa’s parents have always supported her to do whatever she wants to do in life, but make sure that she reaches the top most levels in whatever she does.
As absurd as it may sound, most people (especially the elder generations) in our country are of the view that complicated subjects like Computers, Mathematics and Physics are better suited to boys. But Azqa never gave heed to such useless stereotypes, and neither did her elder sister.
“I liked figuring out solutions to problems from an early age. Since my elder sister was in Computing, I followed her and ended up developing deep interest in it as well. From there on, it was the natural way to go for me.”
Despite everything, applying for CERN internship and then getting selected is not something very ordinary or common. In 2014, Azqa came to know about a couple of internships, one at CERN and one at EPFL, from an email sent out by SEEC’s ex-principal Dr. Arshad Ali. She applied for both internships, even though she had little hope of getting selected for either internship. Getting selected for both CERN and EPFL came as a big surprise, and she chose to attend the EPFL program. In 2015, Azqa again applied for both internships and got selected for both CERN and EPFL yet again. This time, she chose CERN.
For Azqa, interning at CERN was one heck of an experience. She got to attend several IT talks, and had the chance to see different experiments at CERN, like the AMS, a module on the International Space Station looking for dark matter. Azqa even got the incredible chance to work on some projects with top-notch researchers at CERN.
“Needless to say, the nine weeks that I spent at CERN transformed me into a better version of me, both personally and professionally.”
Most Pakistani students who go abroad for internships or studies have to face numerous misconceptions about Pakistan in the minds of foreigners. Azqa’s case was not very different. Her fellow interns came from all over the globe, and most of them were quite open-minded.
“Most of them were pretty open-minded, but some were unfortunately misinformed about Pakistan (thanks to the media). They had some misconceptions about Pakistan, our culture, our language, our food and even about Islam. “
However, it is not said without reason that spending time with someone can help clear all the misunderstandings we might have about them. With time, Azqa’s fellow interns came to know that many of the things they had heard about Pakistan and Pakistanis were not completely true.
“They really liked the traditional Pakistani dresses that I used to wear and were intrigued by the way Urdu is written. One of my colleagues at CERN even wished to visit Pakistan someday.”
It might sound surprising to some, but Pakistan actually has a big contribution in several of CERN’s projects. Azqa shared that the CMS detector actually has the Pakistan flag stamped on it. This is adequate proof of the fact that Pakistan does not lack the muscle or the brains to perform challenging tasks, and excel at them too.
“The only real issue of our gifted land – Pakistan is not the shortage of energy, but rather the mismanagement of it.”
Azqa is not a person to be misled by bitter realities. She agrees that brain drain is one of Pakistan’s most alarming crises of the present. She noted with dismay that even talented people have to suffer a lot to even barely survive in Pakistan. She believes that once Pakistanis free their minds of petty issues, they will be able to invest their energies in relatively productive tasks and will begin to understand the value of talent and time.
”Tell me, if you are a patriotic talented young Pakistani capable of achieving greatness, then why would you not want to grow in a place that actually values your talent?”
In conclusion, Azqa said something that rang deep and true. She agreed with the fact that there are indeed some illiterate areas in Pakistan where female education is not accepted wholeheartedly, but the fact is that Pakistani women are NOT as oppressed as they claim. Pakistan has female Nobel Prize winners, Oscar winners, pilots, doctors, engineers, artists, writers, chefs, leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists who have not only made their country proud, but are fearlessly working alongside men only for Pakistan’s bright future. The fact also remains that Pakistani men are not as bad as the media makes them out to be. Most Pakistani men hold women in high regard. And which country in the world does not have its share of rapists and criminals? Pakistan is not really an exception.
”Visit Pakistan and see for yourself. You’ll be surprised at how much better Pakistanis are than what the media portrays us to be!”