50 years of Scholarship in Physics at Texas Tech University
By Dr Ahmed S. Khan
In academia many professors retire and become professor emeritus; but after working for half a century at Texas Technological University (TTU), Lubbock, Texas, Dr Arfin Lohdi has been bestowed the rank of research professor after his retirement. To celebrate Dr Lohdi’s fifty years of scholarship and service, Texas Technological University conducted a symposium titled “50 Years of Physics at Texas Tech.” The symposium took place on February 14, 2014, at the International Cultural Center on the Texas Technological University (TTU) campus.
Friends and colleagues attended the all-day event to discuss various topics of physics and to speak personally about Dr Lodhi. M. Duane Nellis, president of TTU, speaking on the occasion, said, “We recognize a distinguished career today. He has seen tremendous change, and he has been a part of building up this research institution.”
The technical session was chaired by Prof. C. Myles. He welcomed the attendees. Prof. R Wigmans(TTU) presented an overview of “The State of Subatomic Physics in 1963.” Prof. N. Akchurin (TTU) discussed “The State of Subatomic Physics in 2014.” Prof. Z. Hasan (Temple University) presented his talk titled “Atomic Tailoring of Materials: From Quantum Computing to Coherent Nuclear Control.” Prof. A. Abokor (UNCFSU) did his presentation on “Hadron-Quark Hybrid Model of the Structure of Light Nuclei,” and, Prof. M. Scully (Texas A & M) discussed "100 Years of Bhor’s Molecule Model."
Commenting on Dr Lohdi's contributions during his fifty-year tenure at TTU, Professor Scully said, “Dr Lohdi has published over 250 papers and four books; has received numerous awards which include the Al-Kharzmi Award, Tate and Hall Scholarship, Humboldt Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship,
NASA Faculty Fellow, and US Air Force Faculty Fellow. Dr Lohdi has also served as a UNDP expert several times during 1980s and 1990s and visited various universities in Pakistan on academic sabbaticals. Dr Lodhi has developed and taught courses in mathematics, astronomy and physics; conducted and taught workshops on special interest topics which include Nuclear and Particle Physics, New and Renewable Energy Sources, Space Science in particular, advanced space power generation and distribution in simulating and modeling AMTEC Cells, modeling trapped radiation thus predicting the most needed radiation (proton) flux at and between the solar maximum and minimum activities, and the space debris modeling.”
Dr Roger Lichti, the chairman of the department of physics at TTU, said Dr Lodhi’s interest in research has not stopped because he announced his retirement. Dr Lichti said, “We agreed to give him the title of research professor with no salary,” Lichti said. “However, the university will not allow us to do that. We’re working on paperwork to give him a salary of between $50 and $150 a month, which is about enough to pay for parking.” As a research professor Dr Lohdi’s task will be the completion of unfinished research projects of the department. As tokens of appreciation, Dr Lodhi received a pin from TTU President Nellis, a flag flown over the capital on his behalf from Congressman Neugebauer and a trophy from the department of physics.
After lunch, Dr Lohdi’s colleagues, family and friends who spoke about their personal interactions with him included, Dr Lawrence Schovanec (provost of Texas Tech University), Prof. Rashid Bashir (University of Illinois), Prof. Walter Borst (department chair 1984 - 1991), Prof. Charles Myles (department chair 1991 - 1998), Prof. Lynn Hateld (department chair 1998 - 2007), Drs. Asra Oberoi, Saima Lodhi, Sundus Lodhi, Dr Alan Sill (TTU HPCC), Dr Tom Waak, Norman Redington, Dr Mazahir Khan, Dr Sayid Shah (Evansville Cancer Center, IN), Prof. Naqi Akhter (DeVry University, Chicago), Prof. Michael Sadler (Abilene Christian University), Samer Altabaa (Imam of the Islamic Center of the South Plains). Prof. S. Akhter (Pakistan Kidney Inst.) presented a talk titled “Prof. M.A. K. Lohdi: A Curious Mind.” Mark Bass, a family friend of Dr Lohdi, said his family had opened their home to the Lodhi family since they came to Lubbock. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but it must have seemed weird that my parents opened their Christian home to Muslim friends,” he said. “We have always admired Dr Lodhi’s kindness, sense of humor and humility.”
Speaking at the event Dr Lohdi said, “In the first graduate course I taught, I had no ‘A’s, two ‘B’s and the rest were ‘C’s, ‘D’s and ‘F’s…Perhaps I was a poor teacher.” During his presentations, Dr Lohdi discussed various research experiments he had conducted while at TTU including work on single particle energies, relativistic heavy ion collisions, and new and renewable energy sources. Speaking about his research interest he said, “My natural taste lies in nuclear and particle theory.” Dr Lohdi posed the questions: “What I see in the nucleus?” He answered, “Nucleus is though a tiny little thing but in it is a vista that knows no bounds. The further I go through it, clearer and clearer it looks. There, all curtains of doubts shed away as deeper I dive. All different tunes start harmonizing into one melody. All mirages are dispelled, when real light is shone. No crack I see, no cleft I find in the inner of the nucleus. All, there is serenity and serenity all around and in it.”
Dr Lodhi’s humor was enjoyed by the audience as he joked about his work and told stories about moving to the United States. Dr Lohdi also spoke about his plan to give back to TTU. He said, “ I have set aside a sum $100,000.00 in Texas Tech Federal Credit Union as an endowment to Texas Tech for Nuclear Theory Program for the Department of Physics to administer the Abdul Hakeem Khan Lodhi Trust, established in the name of my father, to whom I owe what I have achieved and what I am. ” As the final thought of his presentation, Dr Lohdi concluded with a reference to the Qur'an: “Thou seest not in the creation. Of the All-Merciful any imperfection. Return thy gaze; seest thou any fissure? Then return thy gaze again, and again, and thy gaze comes back to thee, dazzled, aweary” (The Koran Interpreted, 67:2-4, A. J. Arberry).
Dr Lodhi said he was grateful to have recognition and thanked those who participated in the symposium. He said, “I really find no words to show my gratitude but may express thanks from the core of my heart without the help of uttering words, Professors don’t retire — they phase out.” But Dr Lohdi is not phasing out; after retirement he is continuing as a research professor, indeed, Dr Lohdi is a perpetual professor.
Dr Ahmed S. Khan (ASK) conducted an interview with Dr M.A. K. Lohdi. It is reproduced below:
Dr ASK: Where were you born, and where did you receive your primary and secondary education?
Dr Lohdi: I was born in Agra, British India. I received my primary, middle and higher secondary education in Agra.
Dr ASK: What did your father do? When did you migrate to Pakistan? How many siblings do you have? In Pakistan where did you receive your higher education?
Dr Lohdi: My father owned a shoe factory in Agra. Our family migrated to Pakistan in 1950,but my father stayed back to look after the business affairs, and finally came to Pakistan in 1957. We are eleven siblings. After coming to Pakistan, my family moved to Hyderabad, Sindh, but I had to stay back in Karachi as there was no degree science college in Sindh, other than the D.J. Science College. After graduating from D.J. Science College, I received BSc Hons (Physics, Maths, English) and MSc (Mathematics) degrees from the University of Karachi (old campus). Professor A.B Haleem was the vice chancellor of the University at that time.
Dr ASK: Where did you pursue your doctorate degree? And what were the topics of your dissertations? Who was your adviser?
Dr Lohdi: In 1959, I went to England for higher education. I attended the Imperial College, University of London. First, I completed post-graduate studies and received a DIC from Imperial College. I did research on the representation of rotation group and field theory under Dr Abdus Salam. Later in 1963, I received a PhD from the University of London. I conducted research in the area of Nuclear Physics. The title of my thesis was Nuclear Shell and Cluster Models with special reference to 6Li.
Dr ASK: What is your area of specialization? What research activities have you conducted during the past five decades?
Dr Lohdi: My area of specialization is Nuclear Physics. During the past fifty years I have worked on various research projects at Oakridge NationalLabs, Los Alamos Labs, Air Force and NASA. I have authored more than 250 publications including review and research papers.
Dr ASK: How did you get a job at Texas Tech?
Dr Lohdi: At the end of completing my doctorate I wrote an application for a faculty position, on an aerogram, to the department of Physics, Texas Tech University(TTU, its name was Texas Technological College then), and I received a positive response, and I joined TTU in 1964.
Dr ASK: When you arrived in Texas, did you experience any cultural shock? Would you like to share any experiences regarding adjusting to a new culture?
Dr Lohdi: Well, coming from England the language was the same, English. But there were differences in accent and nomenclature. I was surprised to find the “Restrooms” were not intended for resting. In England there were no restrooms. Similarly, there are many other examples of nomenclature where deliberate attempts have been made to distinguish US English from the British; these are very noticeable as one moves from the East to the West or from the North to the South.
Dr ASK: Did you experience any challenges in adjusting from the British education system to the American education system? How do you compare the British and American education systems?
Dr Lohdi: Not at all. As far as the differences are concerned, I believe that at the undergraduate level, the British or European degree programs are very rugged. And at the graduate level, the American degree programs are very strong and very comprehensive in laying down the foundations for research.
Dr ASK: Based on your long career as a physicist, how would you characterize the evolution of Physics during the past fifty years? What are the new challenges? What are the new frontiers?
Dr Lohdi: Fifty years ago the emphasis in Physics was on the structure of the nucleus in terms of protons and neutrons. Nowadays the focus is on discovering the nature of subatomic particles like elementary and composite. Quarks and String theory are opening the new frontiers in Physics.
Dr ASK: What steps are needed to enhance the higher education system in Pakistan?
Dr Lohdi: The unchecked mushrooming of unregulated, non-accredited, for-profit private education institutions has attenuated the standards of higher education in Pakistan. Nowadays, such institutions are selling business and IT degrees. There is no emphasis on science education. In order to bring Pakistan’s higher education system at par with the developed world, two things are very important: first, the world-class academic leaders and researchers, and second the institutions. You need top academic leaders and researchers who can stay in Pakistan and motivate young people and groom researchers. They need to establish institutions where world class research could be conducted. I believe that had Professor Abdus Salam gone back to Pakistan, he would have created world-class research institutions. Policy makers ought to pay attention to building world-class institutions.
Dr ASK: Many scientists believe that there exists a conflict between religion and science. What are your views in this regard?
Dr Lohdi: In religion there is a fundamental postulate you do not question; it is eternal, whereas in science the postulates can be challenged and changed over time. Science and religion reveal truth but in different domains. Science deals with observations, postulates and theories of material realm. Whereas religion deals with spiritual domain also as well as one’s belief. Science and religion are two different domains. The two should not be mixed. In science the postulate and theory can be tested via experimentation, but in religion the scientific method of experimentation has no validity. In experimentation, the use of right tool is very important, a sensor designed to detect matter can only detect matter and can work in the material realm and not in the spiritual realm.
In the Medieval Age, Muslim scientists excelled in scientific discoveries and yet they had strong faith in their religion; they were good practicing Muslims. During and after the renaissance, many European scientists were atheists or secular, thus this debate of conflict between science and religions started, and this has influenced the new generations of scientists during the past couple of hundred years.
Dr ASK: What needs to be done to revive Ijtehad?
Dr Lohdi: Presently, I think that many Muslim scholars are doing just superficial work in this regard. They need to have a strong foundation of religion as well as of science and technology to do anything meaningful. They need to know the mechanics of research too.
Dr ASK: What do you do in your spare time? What sports do you play?
Dr Lohdi: I don’t have any spare time; however, I skied, used to swim, and played tennis, chess, and bridge. I now jog for four miles.
Dr ASK: How many children do you have? Does any one of them follow you in the path of Physics?
Dr Lohdi: I have three daughters; none of them has pursued careers in Physics, they are all physicians.
Dr ASK: Who is your favorite poet? Would you like to share some excerpts of poetry?
Dr Lohdi: Iqbal is my favorite poet, his Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa are still representing the plight of the Umma of today, perhaps even more so.
Dr ASK: What are your plans after retirement?
Dr Lohdi: Actually I am not retiring, just changing phase. I will focus my energies on research. I will be a research professor.
Dr ASK: What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in Physics?
Dr Lohdi: One has to work hard and to get any breakthroughs in research, one should be dedicated and ready to invest a good deal of time in conducting research.
(Dr Ahmed S. Khan, is a professor in the College of Engineering & Information Sciences, DeVry University, Addison, Illinois)