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January 12, 2020

Khorana chair


January 12, 2020

It is a matter of great pride that Government College University Lahore has decided to set up a chair to honour its alumnus Prof Har Gobind Khorana who won the 1968 Nobel Prize in medicine in 1968. The Khorana Society of Biochemistry and Microbiology is one of the leading societies in the college since its establishment in 1914. The announcement to establish the Khorana Chair was made at the celebration of his 98th birthday on January 9 at the university. According to press reports, vice-chancellor Prof Asgher Zaidi announced at the birthday celebration that the research chair will be established at the chemistry department of the university. Born in 1922 in the town of Raipur near Multan, Khorana did his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Lahore and then did his PhD at the University of Liverpool and pursued post-doctoral studies in Switzerland.

Khorana went on to do research and teach at the universities of British Columbia, Cambridge, and Wisconsin, before finally settling in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US. His association with the Government College Lahore prepared him in his early professional career of research and teaching, and the GCU must be proud to have two Nobel Laureates in sciences: first being Prof Khorana and the second, Dr Abdus Salam. It is a good sign that our institutes of higher education are honouring their alumni, though many of them end up doing research and teaching at foreign universities. The obvious reason for this is a lack of world-class research opportunities in the country especially in applied and physical sciences such as medicine and physics. The establishment of a research chair in Khorana’s name will be a right step to promote academic culture that is beyond any religious and sectarian considerations.

Such steps are also needed in social sciences, we have had world-class social scientists such as Prof Hamza Alvi, Dr Eqbal Ahmed, Dr Mubarak Ali, and many others who should be honoured by establishing chairs in their names. Up until now, we have been acknowledging the scholars who follow the official line of thinking. It is about time our educational establishment and institutions went beyond such considerations and encourage diversity and variety of analyses and opinions. But for that we need tolerance without which a healthy academic culture cannot be established. Unless we embrace different points of view, we will keep producing average and mediocre research.

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