Haris Bin Ashraf
In this interview, Haris discusses his long and successful career in the science and technology. He emphasizes the need both for an enriching education and creativity and the desire to excel, in spite of challenges, in order to succeed.
Let's begin by talking about your Education, Hobbies and Passion.
I am Haris Bin Ashraf, an Intermediate Pre-Engineering student at Defence Authority Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed College Karachi. Science and Technology is my passion, science runs in my veins as this passion has been passed on to me by my father. My hobbies usually depend upon the time of the year, I believe in a balanced lifestyle with due attention to all aspects of life. I have had the honor of representing Pakistan at Intel ISEF twice in 2013 and 2014.
Briefly tell about your past projects, research, current working and future plans.
I have previously worked on two chemistry research projects. The first was “CESDEF – Cost Efficient Self Disintegrating Eco-Friendly Plastic Bags” and the second “Cheap & Efficient conversion of Plastic Garbage into Combustible Oil”. I have also presented both of these projects at the Intel ISEF 2013 and 2014 respectively. Currently, I am working on my Electronics research “Ocular Recognition for Paralyzed Patients using Electrooculography”. I am definitely eyeing the completion of this ongoing project in the near future.
How did you get the ideas to make projects?
I believe that ideas are not always readily available. One has to work hard and possess deep observation in order to dig out an innovative idea. My ideas were sparked from rather ordinary day-to-day observations but I had to refine them a lot before actually working on them. In my opinion, refining your ideas before implementing them is a really important aspect of research.
How were you first interested in this field of science?
My interest depends upon whatever I plan to do. Watching BBC Documentaries about the environment developed my interest in Environmental Chemistry. Similarly, I developed my interest in electronics by observing my father working with electronic circuits. If you aim to do something with full dedication, interest is surely bound to be developed in that field.
Who was your inspiration and what inspires you to pursue this field?
My biggest source of inspiration is my father. The fact that Pakistan needs people working for collective causes instead of personal gains is an inspiration on its own. I aim to pursue this cause; collective benefit for mankind is one of the primary goals of my life. The urge to fulfill this goal serves as fuel for my passion.
Where were your projects performed at home, school, and college laboratory?
My projects were performed at home as well as my college laboratory, in collaboration with the mentors and teachers from the college.
How did you build your technical skills?
Technical skills go hand in hand with confidence and dedication. These skills are developed when one devotes himself fully to his plan of action and works hard, never gives up and tries again and again even after repeated failures. Even I had to face a lot of failures in pursuit of my projects, but that never demotivated me, always keeping your hopes alive is the key to success.
Who was your guide?
I sought guidance from a lot of individuals and qualified professionals, including my teachers, mentors and other collaborators. Taking guidance from learned people broadens your view regarding many concepts. It helps to refine ideas and ultimately improve the standard of your research. I owe my success to Prof. Khalid Jameel Azizi (NESCOM), Prof. Haroon and Madam Irum (DASKBZ College) all other teachers who helped me along my way.
Did your family, friends or teachers helped in your projects?
In my opinion, family plays a very important role in the success of a person. My parents, my siblings and my closest friends have a deep impact in my life. Their presence and affection strengthens me to bring out the best in myself. All of them are partners in my success.
What happen with your projects after completion? Is it applicable to industries or domestic? Any GOVT or private organization approached you?
I competed with my two chemistry projects at Intel ISEF. The research papers of my projects are with Intel Pakistan and also Pakistan Science Foundation. At this stage, it is for them to decide how to implement the researches on industrial and domestic basis. Intel Pakistan and PSF work hand in hand for the scientific advancement of Pakistan.
Briefly tell about your participation in the Intel ISEF?
I competed for the first time at a National Level Science competition in January 2013 with my project “CESDEF Plastic Bags”. I won the Individual Grand Award at NSF 2013 and was selected to represent Pakistan at Intel ISEF 2013 – Phoenix, AZ. I competed again in 2014 with my team-mate M. Babar Shah with the project “Cheap & Efficient conversion of plastic garbage into combustible oil” and won the Grand Award for the second consecutive time, to present my project at Intel ISEF 2014 – Los Angeles, CA.
How did you approach to Intel ISEF?
Actually, I did not approach Intel ISEF. In fact, Intel ISEF approached me. Representatives from Intel Education Initiative conducted a workshop in our college which introduced me to the world’s largest pre-college science fair i.e. Intel ISEF.
What were their criteria for selection of participants?
The projects which are bound to have some sort of impact in the world of science and technology are definitely considered. Apart from that, economic viability and application on large scale goes a long way in determining the final participants of Intel ISEF. Innovation and cost efficiency play a vital role in your project.
What did you learn from there?
Intel ISEF is definitely an once-in-a-lifetime experience. I can safely say that it transformed me completely as a human being and taught me very valuable stuff. Firstly, the ability to communicate your thoughts and make the other person understand what you’re thinking. Secondly, the ability to socialize and see how students from other countries are performing their researches.
What difference did you see among international students and Pakistani Students?
International students have a focused and well-thought out attitude towards research. We may argue that as Pakistanis, we have lack of resources for researches and all. But, the truth of the matter is that this is just an excuse. In general, Pakistani high school students are not conceptually as learned as the foreign students. This is because of the fault in our education system which stresses on memorization more than concept building. The difference among student caliber is not too extravagant, but still exists.
How were your feelings when you selected for Intel ISEF?
In 2013, it came as a surprise to me and I couldn’t even imagine myself to be at a place where I previously only dreamed of being. All my days of research were flashing before my eyes and I was having a hard time believing everything was real. It was a great and memorable moment in my life and will always remain so.
How did Pakistani media response to your achievement?
Immediately after winning, I was honoured by media interviews, both print and electronic. Their response was tremendous; they paid a great amount of respect to all the finalists and were keen on listening to our stories of success.
How about your future plans?
I plan to pursue Engineering Insha Allah, most likely with the parent field being Electrical. Mechatronics also amuses me. Deciding about the future is difficult because everything I tend to develop interest in everything I study.
How are you contributing for the promotion of science and technology in Pakistan?
I have so far contributed by arranging workshops for students to motivate the students to perform research related activities. Apart from this, I am the co-founder of Pakistan Young Scientists Club which was established by my dear friend and colleague Fahad Tahir. The club aims to spread scientific awareness amongst the students. Our outreach is very limited at the moment, but we plan to take this club to greater heights after high school.
Where do you like Pakistan to stand? What plans do you have for Pakistan, if any?
As a patriot, I would like to see Pakistan stand amongst the top nations of the world. This is only possible if we advance scientifically as a nation, not as individuals. For this, the nation will have to incline the collective mindset towards science and research. This is one of the primary goals of Pakistan Young Scientists Club.
What troubles did you have during the Intel ISEF?
Intel ISEF was very smoothly organized. There was hardly anything wrong with the whole competition. Non-availability of Kosher food was slightly annoying though. Overall, everything was spectacular!
Did any Government Institution help you?
Pakistan Science Foundation encouraged us by awarding cash prizes and offered to help us in improving our researches.
How do you think that the government should help people like you?
The government should facilitate researchers by providing better facilities to promote research related studies. Our country needs to advance technologically and scientifically and the Government’s support is essential in this regard.
Do you like to give any message to fellow students, the public and the government from the platform of Pakistan Science Club?
The human mind is a brilliant place. Never restrict and underestimate its power. Do not follow a prescribed path and lead a monotonous straightforward life. Think out of the box, Learn new things, use your mind and try to understand everything that interests you, and then think of doing something commendable in that field. When working on a project, think about WHAT you want to do first and then figure out HOW it’s going to be done afterwards. Remember that hard work never goes unpaid…
Your suggestion for Pakistan Science Club for inspiring youth for Promotion of Science and technology?
I would suggest Pakistan Science Club to visit schools and colleges and arrange such workshops for the promotion of research and concept based learning.
How can you contribute from the platform of Pakistan Science Club?
I appreciate Pakistan Science Club and their efforts for the nation. I am available for all contributions that may be required by the club. If the club requires, I am available for conducting workshops and seminars around different schools and colleges.
What would be your advice to all researchers?
“Firstly observe things, then decide a topic which personally interests you and work on it with honest dedication. Stay consistent and focus on what needs to be done. Because after you have started something, giving up is simply not an option…”
“You also need to lay specific focus on presentation. Some students are great researchers and have everything in their mind but are unable to express. Therefore, a researcher must have command over his work. This is why the power of conversation is one of the most important weapons in an innovator’s cache.”
Is there an achievement of which you are particularly proud? What is it and why is it significant?
He believes that “Hard work never goes unpaid”. “I have experienced this personally since I have tasted defeat in many science fairs in school. After every defeat, I analyzed myself and tried to judge what could be improved and made better. Eventually I was introduced to Intel ISEF in 10th Grade and I enrolled my project for the National Science Fair. After rigorous competition, I finally got through and qualified to participate in ISEF 2013. I participated at the National level again in 2014 and moved on to ISEF again. I was hoping for a grand award but sometimes things do not go as we expect them to. Nevertheless, Intel ISEF was a life changing experience and I have learned a lot in these 2 years. I feel that socially interacting with other researchers from around the world has made me an altogether more mature person.”
Any advice for students trying to get in?
I would like to stress the importance of students to always keep their observation broad, not to confine the brain in a cage and don’t confine imagination. I feels human imagination is the key to success which leads to creativity and eventually innovation. Also I don’t want you to forget the importance of refreshing the brain once in a while, I feel that the most effective way of refreshment is to establish good social relations with friends and mates, and participate in sports and physical activities
Haris Receiving certificate at National science fair 2015