Meet Prof Nilufar Nahar from University of Dhaka, Bangladesh who has made many important contributions to increase international, regional and national chemistry collaboration.

Prof Nahar´s love for science started already in primary school:

- My school teacher made me interested to study chemistry in 1965 when I was in the 9th grade. He taught chemistry as an interesting subject.

This interest ultimately led to a PhD in Chemistry from Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Sweden in 1987.

Prof Nahar has been engaged in ISP supported activities throughout her career at University of Dhaka, Bangladesh:

  • In 1983 she became a research group member of the ISP supported research group at University of Dhaka (IPICS BAN:01), and in 1997 she took over as a research group leader – a position she had until the group was phased out in 2003. This group focused on natural products chemistry.
  • In 2001, support to BAN:01 was phased out, but the group members continued, embarking on the field of environmental chemistry. The ISP support continued, but now to BAN:04. Between 2001-2013 she was the leader of this research group, then member of the project until her full retirement in 2018. Today, still, she is an advisor of the group. (Her successor, Prof Mohammad Shoeb is now leading the group, which will be phased out of ISP support in 2023, while expected to continue developing on other funding). This group focuses increasingly on food safety, which is a burning issue in Bangladesh due to the use of unauthorized toxic chemicals in food production, preservation and storage.
  • Prof Nahar is also one of the founding members of the ISP supported Asian Network for Research on Antidiabetic Plants (ANRAP).
  • She is one of the founders and originally joint secretary of the ISP supported Network of Instrument Technical Personnel and User Scientists of Bangladesh (NITUB), then treasurer and active member. NITUB´s primary mission is to ensure that scientific equipment function properly by educating skilled technical personnel and user scientists.
  • She is also one of the founders and former member of the ISP supported Asian Network of Research on Food and Environment Contaminants (ANFEC), which provides training on quality trace analysis of food and environment contaminants in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Laos.

Professor Nahar about ISP:

- Getting support from the ISP, I built-up my scientific career, and gave me exposure to Sweden during my PhD. This helped me to upgrade my level of teaching and research as well as the research group´s capacity. The possibility of attending conferences, helped me to get new ideas to expand the area of research and also to evaluate myself in comparison with scientists of other countries.

ISP support was a catalyzing factor to make new research collaborations and to get funding from other agencies like IFS, OPCW and UNESCO.

ISP does not give a big allocation of money at a time, but continuation of support based on progress is unique! To keep contact to its grantees is great and help to make research by supporting young colleagues/graduate student is more than excellent.

The list of Prof Nahar´s accomplishments is long, she has:

  • Published 146 papers in peer reviewed international and national journals.
  • Presented results in 150 papers in conferences/seminars/symposia.
  • Contributed to a book on the results of screening plant materials as a source antidiabetic remedies (more than 10 000 copies were sold out), 3rd edition of the book has recently been published.
  • Supervised 19 PhD and 10 MPhil students to graduation. In addition, more than 200 undergraduate students received their degree under her supervision!
  • Received three distinguished awards and one gold medal for her devotion and contribution to science and chemistry.
  • Built a laboratory to perform front-line research in environmental and food contamination chemistry from where competent graduates are produced who can serve the global village.

Prof Nahar has generously shared her knowledge and expertise to students and staff at universities, research institutions as well as public and private companies. She has also arranged many farmers´ awareness programs regarding toxicity of pesticides and environmental issues.

The scientific road has not always been a smooth one:

- It is hard for a woman of a low-income country to spend time for research other than usual work but my experiences tell: It is really tough but not impossible to overcome all the challenges if determination of mind is very strong and support from family members is an essential entity to meet all the challenges. 

Even though Prof Nahar retired in 2018, she continues her work in ANRAP, NITUB and BAN:04 as well as supervisor for some PhD students. Her plans for the future are to write books on science and her life.

We are looking forward to reading your books, Prof Nahar! You are a true inspiration for us all!

December 2020