AsianScientist (Sep. 7, 2018) – In a 1960 paper titled ‘The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural World’, physicist Eugene Wigner noted how physical phenomena can be described and predicted with uncanny precision using mathematical formulas. This observation holds true even today, and Associate Professor Hasibun Naher of BRAC University, Bangladesh, is among the current generation of researchers seeking to unravel the secrets of nature through numbers.
A recipient of the 2018 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award, Naher has been applying numerical methods to the prediction of natural disasters such as earthquakes, storm surges and tsunamis. She hopes that by simulating and modeling these chaotic events, she will be able to save lives, perhaps through the development of early warning systems.
In this interview with Asian Scientist Magazine, Naher describes some of the challenges she faces as a scientist in a developing country and shares her aspirations for the future.
- How would you summarize your research in a tweet?
Storm surges and tsunamis are among the world’s most dangerous natural hazards. Using mathematical equations and numerical methods to study these disasters, we could better predict them, and that will help save lives.
- Describe a completed research project that you are most proud of.
I would not consider any research project as truly ‘completed,’ but I am proud of the work in which we use traveling wave solutions of nonlinear evolution equations to solve real world problems. It has always been my ambition to be a scientist, and I am happy that my research has allowed us to predict storm surges, perform tsunami simulations and carry out mathematical modeling of earthquakes. I’m also very proud to have received the 2018 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award for my research.
- What do you hope to accomplish with your research in the next decade?
Our research team expects to predict wind speed, waves characteristics, maximum water levels, tsunami intensity and coastal inundation patterns.
- Who (or what) motivated you to go into your field of study?
One of my early mentors was the father of my best friend. He was a very successful teacher and, together with my parents, encouraged me to do well academically. I love science because it is the engine of prosperity, and it forms the basis of new innovations and technologies.
- What is the biggest adversity that you experienced in your research?
Numerous factors such as funding, research support, office facilities and time are necessary to achieve distinction in research. As a researcher in a developing country, some of these factors are hard to come by, but I think these challenges breed resourcefulness. However, beyond physical amenities and financial support, I would consider commitment, integrity and talent as other key ingredients for research excellence.
- What are the biggest challenges facing the academic research community today, and how can we fix them?
The biggest challenges are a lack of training, motivation, inspiration and funding to carry out scientific research. In my opinion, scientists should have the opportunity to work with and learn from people all over the world, developing as a well-rounded person whilst making a contribution—large or small—to the knowledge of humankind.
- If you had not become a scientist, what would you have done instead?
I would have been a medical doctor, which was what my father had wanted me to be.
- Outside of work, what do you do to relax?
I read a lot. I also enjoy traveling and shopping.
- If you had the power and resources to eradicate any world problem using your research, which one would you solve?
I would prevent the loss of lives caused by tsunamis and earthquakes, and that can be achieved with better prediction tools.
- What advice would you give to aspiring researchers in Asia?
Adopt a good reading habit and have an innovative mind. Creativity can be a most useful tool for a scientist.
This article is from a monthly series called Asia’s Rising Scientists. Click here to read other articles in the series.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photos: Hasibun Naher.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.