Unique You

| by Dr. APJ Abdulkalam
Address at University of Moratuwa on January 22, 2012

( January 26, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) I am delighted to address and interact with the Students and Faculty Members of the University of Moratuwa in this beautiful environment of Colombo. My greetings to all of you. I found that the University has chosen the motto “Vidyaiwa Sarwadhanam – meaning Wisdom is all Wealth”. This has an important and powerful message to all the students and faculty members. The study of the website of the University indicates that the University has a vision “To be the most globally recognized Knowledge Enterprise in Asia”. With this vision, the University has a mission “produce world class graduates in technological fields who will be relevant nationally and internationally”. I am happy to know that the students of the university are self confident, flexible, highly employable and are trained to become “employment creators” instead of being “employment seekers”. I congratulate the pioneers both present and past who have created and nurtured a robust educational system in the University of Moratuwa during the last 33 years. Today, I would like to share few thoughts on the topic “Unique You”.
First let us see the ten unique personalities,.
Unique You
Dear friends, Look up, what do you see, the light, the electric bulbs. Immediately, our thoughts go to the inventor Thomas Alva Edison, for his unique contribution towards the invention of electric bulb and his electrical lighting system.
When you hear the sound of aero-plane going over your house, whom do you think of? Wright Brothers proved that man could fly, of-course at heavy risk and cost.
Whom does the telephone remind you of? Of course, Alexander Graham Bell.
When everybody considered a sea travel as an experience or a voyage, aunique person questioned during his sea travel from United Kingdom to India. He was pondering on why the horizon where the sky and sea meet looks blue? His research resulted in the phenomena of scattering of light. Of course, Sir CV Raman was awarded Nobel Prize.
Do you know an Indian Mathematician who did not have formal higher education but had inexhaustible spirit and love for mathematics which took him to contribute to the treasure houses of mathematical research – some of which are still under serious study and engaging all-available world mathematicians’ efforts to establish formal proofs? He was a unique Indian genius who could melt the heart of the most hardened and outstanding Cambridge mathematician Prof G H Hardy. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that it was Prof. Hardy who discovered a great mathematician for the world. This mathematician was of-course Srinivasa Ramanujan for whom every number was a divine manifestation.
Do you know the scientist who is famous for Chandra Limit which describes the maximum mass (~1.44 solar masses) of a white dwarf star, or equivalently, the minimum mass for which a star will ultimately collapse into a neutron star to black hole following a supernova. Two of his students got the Nobel Prize before him. It is of-course the famous Nobel Laureate Chandrasekhar Subrmaniam .
Friends, there was a great scientific lady who is known for discovering Radium. She won not one, but two Nobel Prizes, one for physics and another for chemistry. Who is she? She is Madam Curie. Madam Curie discovered radium and she was doing research on the effect of radiation on human system. The same radiation which she discovered, affected her and she sacrificed her life for removing the pain of human life.
Do you know about a great human being with a spirit of service, who also won a Nobel Prize for her contributions? She said and practiced, “Give, give and give, until it hurts”. She is Mother Teresa.
Do you know the Sri Lankan Physicist, academicians and economist who had worked on energy, sustainable development and climate change and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Mr Al Gore in 2007? Of course he is the great Prof. Mohan Munasinghe.
Arthur Clarke, the visionary in space communication who made Sri Lanka as his home revolutionized the world with his concept of geostationary communication satellites.
Do you know the cosmic ray scientist who transformed into institution builder of institutions like Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad – Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and Indian Space Research Organisation? Of course he is the visionary Prof Vikram Sarabhai.
When I described to you young friends, these historical ten events, you all jumped. The scientist, technologist and great human being, who created the event, are unique personalities. Young friends, can you join such unique performers of scientific history? Yes, you can. Definitely, you can. Let us study together, how it can be made possible?
Friends, I have, so far, met 12 million youth in a decade?s time. I learnt, “every youth wants to be unique, that is, YOU! But the world all around you, is doing its best, day and night, to make you just “everybody else”. At home, dear young friends, you are asked by your parents to be like neighbours? children for scoring good marks. When you go to school, your teacher says “why not you become like the first five rankers in the class”.
Wherever you go, they are saying “you have to be somebody else or everybody else”.
The challenge, my young friends, is that you have to fight the hardest battle, which any human being can ever imagine to fight; and never stop fighting until you arrive at your destined place, that is, a UNIQUE YOU! Friends what will be your tools to fight this battle, what are they: have a great aim in life, continuously acquire the knowledge, work hard and persevere to realize the great achievement.
Dear friends, when I see you all, I am thinking how you can achieve what you envision in your life?
Criteria for achievement for youth
How does achievement come? There are four proven steps; having an aim in life before 20 years of age, acquiring knowledge continuously, hard work towards the aim and perseverance to defeat the problem and succeed. In this connection let me recall famous verses of 13th century Persian Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi:

Wings to Fly
“You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideas and dreams.
You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling,
so don?t, you have wings.
Learn to use them to fly.”
– Jalaluddin Rumi
– 13th Century Persian Sufi Poet
My message to you, young friends, is that education gives you wings to fly. Achievement comes out of fire in our sub-conscious mind that “I will win”. So, each one of you assembled here and elsewhere, will have “Wings of Fire”. The Wing of Fire will indeed lead to knowledge which will make you a great technologist, or an Engineer, or a designer, or a teacher, or a political leader, or a bureaucrat or a diplomat or you would like to walk on the Moon and Mars or anything you want to be. I would like to assert that “No youth today need to fear about the future”. How? The ignited mind of the youth is the most powerful resource on the earth, under the earth and above the earth.
System design, system integration and system management
Since I am in the midst of students being prepared for techno-managerial expertise, I would like to give my experience with a teacher who taught me system design, system integration and system management in an integrated learning environment.
While I was studying Aeronautical Engineering in Madras Institute of Technology (MIT), Chennai, (1954-57), during the third year of my course, I was assigned a project with five other colleagues, to design a low-level attack aircraft. I was given the responsibility of system design and system integration by integrating the team members. Also, I was responsible for aerodynamic and structural design of the project. The other five members of my team took up the design of propulsion, control, guidance, avionics and instrumentation of the aircraft.
My design teacher Prof. Srinivasan, the then Director of MIT, was our guide. He reviewed the project and declared my work to be gloomy and disappointing. He didn?t lend an ear to my difficulties in bringing together data-base from multiple designers. I asked for a month?s time to complete the task, since I had to get the inputs from five of my other colleagues without which I cannot complete the system design. Prof. Srinivasan told me “Look, young man, today is Friday afternoon. I give you three days time, by Monday morning if I don?t get the configuration design, your scholarship will be stopped.” I had a jolt in my life, as scholarship was my lifeline, without which I cannot continue with my studies. There was no other way out, but to finish the task. My team felt the need for working together round the clock. We didn?t sleep that night, working on the drawing board skipping our dinner. On Saturday, I took just an hour?s break. On Sunday morning, when I was near completion, I felt someone?s presence in my laboratory. It was Prof. Srinivasan studying my progress. After looking at my work, he patted and hugged me affectionately. He had words of appreciation: “I knew I was putting you under stress and asking you to meet a difficult deadline. You have done a great job in system design”.
Through this review mechanism of Prof Srinivasan, I was injected the necessity of understanding the value of time by each team member and brought out the best from the system design team. I realized that if something is at stake, the human minds get ignited and the working capacity gets enhanced manifold. That?s what exactly happened. The message is: whatever be their specialization, the students should be trained to systems approach and projects, which will prepare them for new products, innovation and undertaking higher organizational responsibilities. A great teacher inspires the young students like Prof. Srinivasan.
I am confident that the University of Moratuwa will break all the inter-disciplinary barriers and promote inter-disciplinary research among the students and faculty members.
Friends, we live in an era of convergence; the future of innovation would lie at the interface of science and engineering. It is estimated that in the life of a scientist or an engineer, he or she will come across and work in at least seven new areas which are born out of convergence of multiple science and technologies. Such convergence has made the border between areas completely porous.
Let me discuss some examples.
Convergence of Technologies : bio-info-nano-eco ecology
The information technology and communication technology have already converged leading to Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Information Technology combined with bio-technology has led to bio-informatics. Similarly, Photonics is grown out from the labs to converge with classical Electronics and Microelectronics to bring in new high speed options in consumer products. Flexible and unbreakable displays using thin layer of film on transparent polymers have emerged as new symbols of entertainment and media tools. Now, Nano-technology has come in. It is the field of the future that will replace microelectronics and many fields with tremendous application potential in the areas of medicine, electronics and material science. When Nano technology and ICT meet, integrated silicon electronics, photonics are born and it can be said that material convergence will happen. With material convergence and biotechnology linked, a new science called Intelligent Bioscience will be born which would lead to a disease free, happy and more intelligent human habitat with longevity and high human capabilities. Convergence of bio-nano-info technologies can lead to the development of nano robots. Nano robots when they are injected into a patient, my expert friends say, it will diagnose and deliver the treatment exclusively in the affected area and then the nano-robot gets digested as it is a DNA based product. I saw the product sample in one of the labs in South Korea where best of minds with multiple technology work with a target of finding out-of-the-box solution.
My experience in Harvard University: Convergence of science is reciprocating. Let me give an example. Recently, I was in the Harvard University where I visited laboratories of many eminent professors from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. I recall, how Professor Hongkun Park, showed me his invention of nano needles, which can pierce and deliver content into individual targeted cells. That?s how nano particle sciences is shaping the bio sciences. Then I met Professor Vinod Manoharan, who showed on the other hand bio sciences is in turn shaping nano material science as well. He is using DNA material to design self assembling particles. When particular type of DNA is applied on a particle at the atomic level, he is able to generate a prefixed behavior and automatic assembly from them. This could be our answer to self assembly of devices and colonies in deep space without human intervention as envisioned by Dr K Erik Drexler. Thus, within a single research building, I saw how two different sciences are shaping each other without any iron curtain between the technologists. This reciprocating contribution of sciences to one another is going to shape our future and industry needs to be ready for it. The curriculum designers of University of Moratuwa, may like to take this aspect into account while formulating new courses.
Now, a new trend is emerging. The aspect being introduced is that of Ecology. Globally, the demand is shifting towards development of sustainable systems which are technologically superior. This is the new dimension of the 21st century knowledge society, where science and environment will go together. Thus the new age model would be a four dimensional bio-nano-info-eco based.
21st century University Vision
Friends, I have in the last ten years met more than 10 Million youth and faculty from more than 150 universities in India and 37 universities in abroad. Based on these interactions, I wish to formulate a 21st university vision for your consideration.
1. The universities have to prepare citizens of the future with a global outlook and be capable of serving his/her nation or nation of his/her choice.
2. Science and technology and public policy are interrelated for mutual benefit and ushering in human kind?s development. This link has to be solidly built in the university education.
3. Good teachers can be in any part of the world. The university has to bring in this resource through innovative content generation in virtual class rooms.
4. Technological connectivities among universities have to be pursued vigorously using cost effective virtual class rooms.
5. Cost effective continuing education possibilities are essential for citizens to be in tune with time.
6. Can university education lead to sustainable development of the nation?
7. With the world population increasing and resources dwindling, a mindset has to be developed for conserving and sharing the resources and look for new research for abundant resources. This calls for a “noble spirit” as well as a “research spirit”.
In summary, the 21st century university education is about developing enlightened citizenship for a knowledge society for peace and prosperity of nations and the world. 21st century University has to be the incubator of world knowledge powerhouse.
Finally, I would like to ask you, what would you like to be remembered for? You have to evolve yourself and shape your life. You should write it on a page. That page may be a very important page in the book of human history. And you will be remembered for creating that one page in the history of the nation – whether that page is the page of invention, the page of innovation or the page of discovery or the page of creating societal change or a page of removing the poverty or the page of fighting injustice or a page of finding innovative cost-effective healthcare system both preventive and curative or a page of how you have facilitating establishment coastal PURA or Hill PURA in any part of Sri Lanka. I am sure, you would like to do something different – out of box missions. I will be very happy if you could write this page. And if you mail to me your dreams, I can correspond on your out of box ideas and thoughts.
My best wishes to all of you for success in your mission of igniting the energy and ability of youth to achieve accelerated societal transformation in Sri Lanka and become an enlightened citizen of the world.
May God Bless you.
Oath for Students
1. Engineering, Technology, healthcare and Management is a life time mission. I will work, work and work and succeed.
2. Wherever I am, a thought will always come to my mind. That is what process or product I can innovate, invent or discover.
3. I will always remember that “Let not my winged days, be spent in vain”.
4. I realize I have to set a great technological goal that will lead me to think high, work and persevere to realize the goal.
5. My greatest friends will be great scientific/technological minds, good teachers and good books.
6. I firmly believe that no problem can defeat me; I will become the captain of the problem, defeat the problem and succeed.
7. I will work and work for removing the problems faced by planet earth in the areas of water, energy, habitat, waste management and environment through the application of science and technology.
8. I will work and work for making Sri Lanka a granary of south-east Asia.
9. I will be a good member of my family, a good member of the society, a good member of the nation and a good member of the world.


Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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