From LUMS to Winning Prestigious International Scholarships: An Alum's Journey to Success
From the quiet city of Narowal to becoming one of the youngest physics lecturers at the age of 22 to securing prestigious scholarships in the field of Astrophysics, Haider Khan embodies the spirit of determination and curiosity.
A BS Physics 2022 alum of the Syed Babar Ali School of Science and Engineering at LUMS, Haider won three highly competitive, fully funded Master's scholarships this year and opted to enrol in the Erasmus Mundus Masters in Astrophysics and Space Sciences at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. He also received an acceptance into the Fulbright scholarship and the Erasmus Mundus International Masters in Particle Physics.
The year was also momentous as he underwent an interview process for the Chevening scholarship, a stage that only 240 out of 5,200 applicants from Pakistan reached. Furthermore, he achieved the remarkable distinction of becoming one of the youngest lecturers (BS-17) in Physics through the Punjab Public Service Commission in Pakistan. Previously, during his time at LUMS, Haider secured the prestigious Global UGRAD Scholarship in 2021.
Upon completing his FSc pre-engineering, Haider secured the second position among other students in the Gujranwala board. This accomplishment opened doors to admission offers, complete with scholarships, from some of Pakistan's most prestigious universities. However, his heart led him to LUMS. What was truly capitating to him, though, was the prospect of a multidisciplinary education that LUMS uniquely offers. He realised he was allowed the space to transcend the boundaries of traditional engineering and science studies to explore diverse fields such as business, communication, history, psychology, and law.
Like many students, Haider started his first year at LUMS uncertain about his true academic and professional calling, with his interests ranging from mathematics to engineering. Left in a state of ambiguity, he embarked on a journey of self-discovery wherein he delved into a diverse array of courses, from Chemistry and Biology to Electrical Engineering. Amid this diverse curriculum, it took three Physics courses to capture his attention and ignite a spark within him. “As I delved deeper into the world of Physics, I began to comprehend the intricacies and profound beauty of the subject. What made this experience even more impactful was the robust support system I encountered – a network of senior students and dedicated alumni, coupled with the unwavering mentorship of my professors. This guidance not only refined my academic pursuits but also granted me a profound sense of clarity and purpose.”
Haider shared his motivation to apply for international scholarships and said that he aspired to deepen his grasp of Astrophysics and the Erasmus Mundus, Fulbright, and Chevening scholarships presented a golden gateway to explore this passion. “My primary motivation for pursuing these scholarships lay in my burning desire to contribute to the field of Astrophysics through learning and research.” He acknowledged the academic nurturing he received at LUMS and how it was the cornerstone of his qualification for these prestigious awards. He applauded the Physics department at the University for its unparalleled research facilities, academic mentorship, and advanced courses, which ultimately instilled an unwavering confidence in his academic prowess.
Haider appreciated the rich LUMS culture, and how it allowed him to absorb the tapestry of Pakistan’s myriad cultures. “This exposure proved pivotal during my scholarship interviews, especially for Fulbright and Chevening. The chance to explore diverse academic realms, such as Communication and Business, alongside Physics, equipped me to bring a broader perspective to my scholarship applications, facilitating my selection. In addition, my involvement in various student societies, including holding directorate positions, honed my leadership skills and strengthened my ability to build networks and relationships. These attributes played an instrumental role in my selection for these prestigious scholarships.”
For LUMS students who may want to follow in his footsteps, he advises them to participate more in outside-class activities. “My time as a part of the LUMS cricket team and as a director of the LUMS Space Observatory was almost as crucial as my learning in the class of General Relativity or Business Communication. Many students may excel academically, but only a select few can showcase significant experiences in community service or leadership within student clubs; these qualifications hold equal importance alongside academic achievements in securing these scholarships.”
Haider believes the constant mentoring of professors and the LUMS alumni network allowed him to explore academic opportunities previously unknown to him. “My leadership and co-curricular experience at student societies at LUMS proved pivotal in my selection for the Global UGRAD exchange programme in the US. Being a student of the most culturally diverse university in Pakistan allowed me to assimilate into the foreign environment of a US university conveniently.”
On what is next for him, Haider shared, “Not only will I be taking advanced courses in Astrophysics and Space Science but the Erasmus Mundus programme’s collaboration with research institutes like the Italian Space Agency, the National Institute of Astrophysics, and multiple space observatories across Europe will also provide me with the necessary exposure to research and industry for my future as a scientist. Moreover, I look forward to contributing to the field of Science Communication in Pakistan to ensure that science nourishes in the hands of the future scientists of this country, and I can inspire a generation of kids to take up science as their career.”