One meeting that changed my life

I was totally dedicated to my PhD at the exclusion of everything else. I felt that this was the only way to succeed. I never took holidays in the 3 year period during my PhD, I worked in the laboratory Saturdays and Sundays and reading research papers in the evening and writing up my laboratory results. Even after my wedding on Sunday I was at University at 9:00am on Monday. Even at the wedding I was probably thinking about my experiments the next day instead of my beautiful wife. I must have been crazy. Everyday I enjoyed going to the library to read all the latest journals in my subject and also general science journals such as new scientist and chemistry in Britain. My general knowledge exploded rapidly. I imagined what would happen if I changed certain experimental parameters and wrote them down in my notebook. I had all my results written up immediately and also had numerous future scenarios. I kept immaculate notes. However, I was clear however that academia was not for me. I wanted to get out into industry and solve serious real life problems. I was sponsored by General Electric Company and this seemed like the next logical step in my development. When I visited the company and did research in a fantastic environment with state of the art facilities. I loved working in industry due to the speed of decision making, solving real life problems and being part of a team that was united and pushing hard in the same directions. I moved into Ferranti Electronics, INMOS and then to VSW Scientific. Due to a recession VSW decided to cut their research and development and unfortunately my industrial career came to an end. I vowed never to work for anyone else but to set up my own company.
After several weeks out of work I ventured into Salford University with the view of writing up a business plan for funding for the new venture. I had a very young family and was offered a role of consultant whilst I developed the business plan and set up the surface engineering division. My remit was talk to academics, look at the facilities and then go to into industry and raise funding for academics. During that time I was invited to an evening concert by the Pakistani Society. I had a thoroughly good time and then Ejaz and his friends invited me for tea at the student hostel. Ejaz was doing his PhD in the area of copper indium diselenide thin films for solar cells. This meeting was to change my life forever. We met several times and started talking about his project and enjoyed the dialogue. On one occasion I asked Ejaz what would really enhance his career when he returned to Pakistan. He stated that in addition to getting a PhD having some published journal papers would be very useful for future promotions.
So we set out to write some papers, at first using research data I had and then from his project. This required long effort and dedication. In one of the sessions I stated that I was wasting my time writing papers because my boss was only interested in what contracts I was awarded and what I was bidding for this month. He had no interest in how many papers I was writing. Ejaz stated without hesitation that “one day these papers will be very useful to you.” I took no notice of what he said. I saw my future in industry. During my tenure I interacted with a lot of academics and I started to be infected by their enthusiasm for research an discovery. Over the couple of years working with Ejaz I took my journal past the 50 mark from about a dozen. I was invited to apply for a senior lectureship at University of Northumbria in Manufacturing Technology. My experience of getting funding from industry was attractive, however the competition was very tough. I was seasoned professional at giving presentation so I was confident about the interview and presentation. However, I believe that it was my research publications that saw me over the line. I took to academia like a duck to water. From that first meeting we have gone onto publish dozens of peer-reviewed papers together, supervise several dozen PhD students and progress gradually in our careers as Heads of the Department of Physics, BZ University and Institute of Nanotechnology and Bioengineering at UCLAN. Ejaz’s has succeeded due to his incredible talent, dedication and hard work whilst mine has been due to being extremely lucky to have met so many wonderful people who have help me along the way. I attribute my destiny as an academic to that one meeting with Ejaz and friends after the Pakistani Society function at Salford university in the mid 90s.
Waqar and Ejaz in the 90 at Ejaz's PhD viva

Waqar and Ejaz in the 90’s at Ejaz’s PhD viva

If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants. Isaac Newton


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