Nabin K. Malakar, Ph.D.

I am a computational physicist working on societal applications of machine-learning techniques.

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My research interests span multi-disciplinary fields involving Societal applications of Machine Learning, Decision-theoretic approach to automated Experimental Design, Bayesian statistical data analysis and signal processing.


Interested about the picture? Autonomous experimental design allows us to answer the question of where to take the measurements. More about it is here...


I addition to the research, I also like to hike, bike, read and play with water color.

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Showing posts with label nps. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nps. Show all posts

Sunday, July 13, 2014

An Interview with Dr. Churamani Gaire

Dr. Churamani Gaire, from Syangja, Nepal,  shares fond memories of the school days, teachers and mentors. He also shares his experience in joining the semiconductor industry as he is currently working as Principal Process Engineer at GLOBALFOUNDRIES.  It is our pleasure to have him in my frame of reference.

Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in an economically subaltern farming family in Kuwakot-8, Syangja. I went to local school (Now Bhanu Higher Secondary School, Chaughera, Syangja), where I learned Nepali and English alphabets from my teachers Durga Pangeni and Hari Bdr Ale, respectively. I completed high school from Keware (Now Bal Siddha Higher Secondary School), Syangja. I then continued my undergraduates at Prithvi Narayan College, Pokhara and Masters in Physics at Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur. Having to answer this question makes me a bit nostalgic of all the fond memories.
My research interest is in the nanotechnology. My professional profile is in LinkedIn:
My research activities are disseminated in various journals and conference proceedings and are available for public consumption:
How did you decide to study physics? Did anyone, in particular, influence you?
I was shy as a child and did not know what I was up to. Growing up, I used to carve tops and toy cars out of wood and play. By high school time, it was clear to me that I was more into mathematics and physical sciences than other subjects. I was privileged to have great teachers like Bhoj Raj Gurung and Babu Ram Sharma in High School, Namo Narayan Yadav, Pabitra Mani Poudel and Binay Kumar Jha in Undergraduates; Devendra Raj Mishra and Shekhar Gurung in my Masters. I have the highest regard to Babu Ram Sharma, Binay Kumar Jha and Shekhar Gurung for their support I got during my high school and college times. While I recall these great names today, it is Guru-Purnima, and I salute these great teachers and mentors on this occasion.
What strategies did you use to be successful in college? Please give out some tips on how to become a successful student in Nepal?
My strategy was to attend all the classes, go through the subject material more than once, note down the areas of weakness and focus on those items in the next iteration of study. In my opinion, one has to develop his/her own style. There is no universally applicable strategy per se. However, my biggest tip to the Nepalese students would be to not waste their time by going to political pep-rallies and become puppets of political parties.
Could you also describe your academic and research journey in USA? What are the challenges for Nepalese students?
I started my graduate study from University at Albany in theoretical physics. I later transferred to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), due to a better match to my academic interest. I conducted my graduate research in nanoscale growth and characterization of semiconducting materials. After my graduation, I continued my research at RPI and developed strategy to grow near single crystal semiconductor material starting from amorphous substrate suitable for low-cost energy application. 
As regard to the challenges, it's the initial first few months when one is trying to adjust with so many new things: new place, new education system and some language barrier. Back in the country, our focus was more on theoretical than experimental physics. So, if you want to pursue theoretical physics in USA, I think you can immediately choose a research group and start contributing towards your graduate dissertation. However, if you want to pursue experimental physics, it takes one-to-two semesters before you can contribute towards your graduate dissertation. Again, it varies from person to person. I believe that Nepalese graduates are capable of competing with international graduates.
Could you please suggest the practical applications of your research outcomes? Do you have a favorite research paper (written by yourself or somebody else)?
My research was about nano-heteroepitaxial growth of near single crystal semiconductor material starting from amorphous substrate. This is applicable in substrate fabrication for low-costing solar cells. I use epitaxial growth method in my current job to create individual transistor units used in computer chips. My publications done during my graduate school are in the public domain and are available for your viewing pleasure as I mentioned earlier. Instead of me saying which of my articles I like, I will leave that option to the public to judge. However, I shall say some of my papers are cited more than the others by the researchers in the field.
How is your experience in joining the Industry? Was there any culture shock for an academician? Or shall a PhD holder expect any difference?
Definitely there is a bit of culture shock. I find rather interesting differences in academia and high-tech industry. Industry has more stringent requirements for deadlines. Your decisions can make immediate financial impact on the order of 10s of millions of dollars. To this end, I would say both the risk and reward are much higher in the high tech industry. And whether you have a PhD or not does not make much difference in the industry, your abilities are judged through whether you can solve problems efficiently and precisely and deliver the solution or not. Nevertheless, the rigorous training process that you have gone through during your PhD definitely prepares you for the rigorousness required in the industry.
A general perception is that industry experience is very demanding. Could you please give us a snapshot of your one day in office?
Yes, you are correct that the industry is very demanding due to short shelf-life of technology. One has to constantly update the new things that are in the market, and stay up to date with the technology challenges and solutions.
I work in semiconductor foundry and own a critical process responsible for transistor performance. On my typical day, I have to fulfill three kinds of major responsibilities and generally attend/prepare for 5-6 meetings a day to:
  • Ensure that there are no problems in my process step from both process and hardware aspects. If there are problems, resolve immediately.
  • Ensure that internal and external customer demands are met. Internal customers include integration and device team who are constantly looking for new processes and recipes to improve the overall flow. The external customers are real customers who I have to engage time to time and ensure they are comfortable working with us.
  • Ensure that we offer improved process to our internal and external customers. We constantly conduct experiments to improve our process. We analyze/interpret data and feed-forward the learning to next cycle, a process we call “continuous improvement process”. 
What have you found to be the toughest aspect of being a physicist, if any?
The job hunting was the toughest part as a physicist.
Which of the skills are strongly recommended for the job hunters in this field?
In my opinion, strong communication skill, data analysis/interpretation and decision making ability are some of the key items recruiters are looking in new hires.
Sir, since I am not a professional interviewer, would you like to add anything else? Thank you for your time!
I am afraid your questions are more professional than my answers. I commend you for your effort. And I wish you for your continuous success as blogger in the future. Thanks very much.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An Interview with Dr. Dipak Rimal

Dr. Dipak Rimal recently defended his PhD in experimental nuclear physics, and joined a post-doctoral research associate position at the University of Florida. He was born and raised in Baigundhura VDC in south-eastern part of Nepal. We are pleased to have Dr. Rimal in my frame of reference!

Please tell us about yourself, and your journey to USA for higher education.
I was born and raised in Baigundhura VDC in south-eastern part of Nepal. My father was a local educator, and had a great appreciation for science and technology. His constant motivation and inspiration lead me to pursue higher education in science. After passing the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exam from Shree Amar Madhyamik Vidhyalaya in 1995, I went to Birat Science College, Biratnagar to study science (I. Sc.). I then went to Tri-Chandra College for Bachelor's degree. Since I graduated as a physics major with minor in chemistry and math, I got admitted to the Central Department of Physics (CDP), Tribhuvan University for M. Sc. in Physics. After graduating, I taught undergraduate level physics courses at Xavier Academy, Lazimpat for two years. In the fall of 2007, I moved to Miami after I got admitted into the PhD program at the Department of Physics at Florida International University. I recently graduated from FIU with PhD in physics specializing in experimental nuclear physics.
Could you please describe your PhD research in plain English. (Einstein once said, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”)
My PhD research was in the field of experimental nuclear physics. My research was primarily focused on expanding our understanding of the electromagnetic (EM) form factors of the proton, the positively charged core of the hydrogen atom. The EM form factors of the proton are the most fundamental observables, which encode information about the charge and magnetization distribution inside it. Even though the proton has been studied for several decades, a lot remains to be understood about the electromagnetic form factors in order to completely understand the structure of the proton. A significant discrepancy exists between the results from unpolarized and polarized electron scattering measurements of the EM form factors. This discrepancy casts a serious doubt on our understanding of the proton electromagnetic form factors and also on several other observables derived from these form factors (for e.g. proton charge radius). I don’t want to go into details here but plausible theoretical explanations for the cause of this discrepancy have been proposed. Rigorous experimental tests are necessary to make a definitive statement about these explanations. In short, my research was focused on the experimental test of the proposed theoretical explanations.Our team produced an intense matter/anti-matter mixed beam (electron/positron) from a 5.6 GeV primary electron beam at Jefferson Lab. Ordinarily, the matter and anti-matter particles would annihilate releasing the energy in the form of photon. To keep the particles intact, the electrons and positrons were spread over a distance of a few centimeters. The mixed matter/anti-matter beam was then scattered from a liquid hydrogen target, kept at the center of a giant spectrometer known as CEBAF Large Acceptance Spectrometer (CLAS). The elastically scattered electron, positron, and the proton were detected in CLAS. The detected particles were then analyzed to compare the positron-proton and electron-proton interactions.
What are the social applications of your research/ short-term or long-term impact of your research to the society.
My research, being a fundamental science research, may not have immediate social applications. However, in the long run it will reshape the way the electron scattering data is analyzed. My research was intended to test theoretical explanations for the discrepancy between different methods of measuring the charge distribution inside proton. These results will help make a definitive statement about the explanation for a decade long scientific puzzle.
How was your graduate school experience? (Specifically skill(s) you needed to sharpen etc.)
My graduate school experience at FIU has been memorable one. Since we had a lot of fellow Nepali graduate students in the department, the physics department at FIU felt like a second home. I feel lucky that I had an excellent advisor who provided me an opportunity to work in a large international collaboration comprising of scientists from all over the world. I had to learn UNIX/LINUX operating systems, and learn programming languages. I also had to sharpen my problem solving and experimental skills.
Please share few useful tips that you wish you were told when you applied for PhD.
I wish I had learned at least one programming language before I applied for PhD. I wish I was told to learn problem-solving rather than memorizing physics derivations.
Where do you want to be in the next 5 years? What are your hobbies, and spare time activities?
Umm! This one is the hardest one. I don’t really know! I just started working as a post-doctoral research associate at University of Florida. I will be working on MINERvA neutrino experiment at Fermilab to investigate neutrino-nucleus interactions. Let’s see how next 5 years unfold but I definitely want to see myself in a pretty good shape in terms of research. Regarding hobbies, I enjoy visiting new places. I follow world news to keep myself up to date with the recent happenings around the globe. I am also a big time sports fan. In the spare time, I enjoy watching professional leagues and college sports.


Monday, May 19, 2014

An interview with Dr. Mukti Aryal

We present a candid interview with Dr. Mukti Aryal!!
Born in a remote village of Nepal, Dr. Aryal's journey has inspirational stories as he represents one of the best achievers among the Nepalese physicists.
Please read on!

Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? (Where did you grow up, where and studied etc.) 
Thank you for this interview Nabin ji, I appreciate it. This is a good opportunity to share my academic experiences, and about myself. I was born in Darlamchaur, Isma Gulmi; a hilly region in western Nepal. I am from farmer’s family, one among nine kids of my parents. Most small farmers like us used to hardly make their living from farming. However, since my father was an elementary school teacher in our village, we had an additional income. That means we had a little more comfortable living since my father was educated and that’s why my parents were very much aware of importance of education. In my time, most parents in my village were either unaware of importance of education or they would require their kids to help them in the farms. Most kids used to help their parents in household work such as taking care of cows, buffaloes, cutting grasses, chasing monkeys from corn field etc. while I did take part in such activities and farming only in the morning and evening or in my free time. I was curious and very disciplined in school and used to do my homework regularly. After I passed grade five I had to help my parents at home and left school for one year. I started again after my eldest brother got married and my sister-in-law came to help at home. After that I continued my education and I was doing excellent in my study from very beginning. I am a PhD now and I want to say to school kids from village of Nepal who are barely getting chance to go to school: kids! You can do it as I did! I did my primary school (1-3 grade) nearby my home (15 minutes’ walk), sitting in the lawn under open sky with two teachers and one of them was my father. Middle school was about 1 hour walking but had to leave home for grade 8 and up. I did my high school, SLC from Mahendra Ma. Vi. Tamghas, Gulmi in 2045 B.S; I. Sc. from Tansen Palpa, neighboring district; B.Sc. from Tri-Chandra College Kathmandu; master in Physics from TU Kritipur and finally I did my PhD from University of Texas at Dallas in 2010. After PhD, I went to University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill for post doc and finally I am here in California for industrial job working as a process engineer/research scientist. 
What was your aim in life as a teenager? How did you decide to study science and then physics? Did anyone, in particular, influence you? 
You probably meant professional aim. As a son of a farmer and a teacher, I had an aim to be a good teacher and a good farmer following the footpath of my father. Every kid is naturally curious. However, unknowingly parents or elders kill the curiosity by discouraging them from asking questions and stopping them from exploring things. That did not happened to me, instead my mom used to keep interest about what I read at school, wanted to know the stories from my books while she was illiterate. I was always among top students in class so I was advised to take science and major math in high school. One of my elective subjects was Agriculture. It was exciting because I wanted to be a good teacher and a farmer. In school, I learned that traditional agriculture system was one of the main reasons for poverty of villagers. I and my elder brother and classmate Baburam were working together in farm to grow better. We really set example of good farming growing crops in our fields using knowledge learned in class at that time. My science teacher in high school once suggested to take science major in college and I liked that idea. There was no science college in Gulmi district at that time. I went Tansen Papla to study science. However, first college degree in science major (I. Sc.) was very tough for me and it is tough for anyone whose SLC is from government school where courses are taught in Nepali medium. Some of my schoolmates dropped science because they were not coming for their own but were sent by parents. I had no choice but success because study science was my choice not my parents’. I had determination so I was patient and I could complete I. Sc. in physics and mathematics. As a scientist, of course, I advocate science. For new generation I would like to say that I. Sc. was my greatest achievement and a financial freedom. I. Sc. was my reason for financial freedom because I was not dependent on my parents anymore. For the first time I felt like I could stand in my own feet. This is because it was relatively easy to get teaching job after I. Sc. at that time. I might not find one where I wanted to, but there were so many schools looking for math and science teachers in Nepal at that time. Even now, if you want to go villages or remote areas you can get job after I. Sc. This can be a very good reason for one to study science. This should be the real motivation for science major. There are still more chances of getting teaching jobs for science major than other subjects. If one has more choices, or one thinks that he can get job s/he could gain a lot of courage to move forward and courage to take risk that applied to me as well. Though my parents were not able to support my further education, I came to Kathmandu to see if I could still survive and peruse my education. Otherwise I would take a break for teaching to make money for my study. Therefore, I strongly recommend young generation to start college with science major. If you succeed, you have so many doors open. You can always change your mind and move to arts and commerce, you can find teaching job in schools, you can do tutoring to high school kids and so on. Moreover, you can understand basic principle of natural phenomenon. Finally, science major led me to physics. Physics is a beautiful subjects as we get chance to understand the nature and express natural laws in mathematical relations. It requires a lot of thinking. I used to love to read literatures but that I would understand without much effort and without taking any classes. Physics requires brain exercise and more I read it more I get interested. Moreover, I study physics as I saw more chances of getting job after graduation in physics. 
Sounds like you worked and studied together. So, how did you balance work and study? How did you succeed? 
If there is a will, there is a way. I came to Kathmandu for my bachelor’s degree in science (B.Sc.). Sometime teaching in boarding school, sometime tutoring math and science to high school kids I managed to work and study. Sometime I had to skip my classes for work. The day I completed my B. Sc., my confidence level reached to the highest level. I was encouraged by my own success; I was interested in reading by more reading. Nothing extraordinary, I just kept doing and I think this is the key to success. I wanted to continue my study to master’s in physics. By that time my professional aim was changed and I wanted to be a physics professor in a university in Nepal. Obviously I had to work and study for my master as well and this time I had to support my younger brother too! As you know Master level courses in physics are very tough in Nepal. Basically, we learned taking classes but that was not enough. Discussions among friends, collections of old questions and solving them in groups, sharing class note among friends and finally memorizing formulas and equations were major strategies to succeed the Tribhuvan University comprehensive exam, which is very tough annual exam. I would suggest to new generations not to panic if you don’t understand at first, continue to ask and discuss with friends. Our teachers are so helpful, take full advantage and success is in your hands. After you succeed there in Nepal, you can compete with anybody in the world. All graduate from Nepal are doing excellent around the globe. Data show that they are doing equal or better than the students from anywhere else. 
You said that you wanted to become a physics professor in Nepal. What makes you come to USA?
Well, it did not go as I thought. TU did not open professors’ positions for long time. I was mostly teaching in English boarding school and as a part-time lecturer in TU. Though one could get teaching position after MSc, a PhD would be recommended and most of physics professors in TU were PhD holders. To that front, I was looking for options for further education as well. The trend to come to USA for further study was just about there. I was in contact with Dr. Jagat Shakya and Dr. Naveen Jha who were already in USA. I was not sure I would be able to come but just took TOEFL exam and applied a couple of places. I got admission with scholarship at Minnesota State University and got visa. To get chance to come to USA was considered a good option and I had no many choices. So, I came for master program in physics to USA in 2003. Nowadays, it is a lot easier. There are a lot of Nepalese around the globe now; you can find information in Nepali Physicists around the globe in this website here Thank you Nabin ji and team for this good work. I really appreciate your effort. Internet access is easy nowadays, you can get connected via email, facebook, linkedin, twitter and most of the time you can get response instantly. My advice to new generation is that please take full advantage of it. 
Could you please tell us about your research interest. 
I came to USA in 2003 and started first research at Minnesota State University, Mankato Minnesota in 2004. There I learned about doing research by preparing high temperature ceramic super conducting samples, used X-ray powder diffraction and measured its magnetic and heat capacity etc. My PhD research in UT Dallas was about organic solar cells (plastic solar power) which have potential for low cost production and the flexibility would enable the solar to wrap around any types of curved surfaces like clothing, cars etc. Another area of my expertise is nanofabrication of photonic structures. In my post-doctoral research I was able to fabricate photonic nanostructures of the butterfly wings, that are consider most complex structures in nature. Using low cost method, there I demonstrated that the current engineering technology was capable for mimicking the most complicated photonic structures in nature. These photonic structures have several uses such as black wings for maximum light absorption, other colors for chemical sensing, bank note counterfeiting etc. 
My publications can be found in
 Linkedin page 

What strategies did you use to be successful in research, Any advice? 
There were challenges and opportunities to succeed and do research of my interest. To choose a professor and a research topic is challenging and the success determines future career. It may be helpful for beginner researchers if I go over a little bit detail on this. The choice of research topics depend on several factors: research interest, availability of research and vacancies with the professor etc. I think it is important to think what you want to do after graduation. I chose a research which could open doors for industries and academia so that it might be easier to find a job after graduation. As I understand today, the research skills such as sample preparations and characterizations are more important than the research topic itself in industrial jobs. Academia needs more publications and in depth understanding of the topic and creative ideas. I got interested in solar energy, best renewable energy alternative to current fossil fuels and coals. There have been solar power in the market but expensive to replace traditional electric powers such as hydroelectricity and fossil fuels power plants. My research focused on plastic solar cells as mentioned earlier. The best part of my research was I could learn nanotechnology, nanostructure fabrication and characterization and other related skills that could fit for academia and industries. My research helps in fundamental understanding of conducting polymer. Let me tell you about plastic solar cells. In high school, we learned that plastics are bad conductors. First conducting polymer was discovered by Nobel laurel Alen Heeger and his team in 1990s. Research in plastic solar cells was a hot topic when I was about to start my PhD research. Plastic solar cells have potential for low cost but their efficiency is poor. One way to improve efficiency was by controlling nanostructure morphology. In that front, my group pioneered in nanostructured organic solar cells that I proved that nanostructured morphology can be controlled by nanoimprinting. I presented my research in MRS Fall meeting in 2008. This was my first conference presentation that happened in front of large audiences where one of which was Nobel Prize winner Prof. Alen Heeger, all seats were full and people were standing on back of the room. I published my first paper in 2008 which is cited 76 times as of today. The excitement was high in the beginning. The efficiency of organic solar cells at that time was about 5% and we were hoping to reach 10% with our techniques. However, there are always likely to have ups and downs in research. Likewise, the efficiency of our cells was much lower than we expected. Again, I did not give up but continued to explore the reasons behind the low performances. Around that time I found an interview by Alen Heeger on conducting polymer. At the end of interview on the question of long term goal, Dr. Heeger said (2nd last paragraph): “Polymer chains are disordered like cooked spaghetti noodles , what you really want, if you want very high performance, is more like spaghetti in the box before you cook it.” I started looking if I can really do that. Finally, I was able to show that that can possibly happened by the technique we were using to fabricate organic solar cells. All I needed to show was, that was really happening. In 2009, I published a paper on polymer chain alignment, which is my biggest contribution in understanding of fundamental polymer science. This paper attracted many researchers around the world (cited 122 times). We wrote a review in the topic after that. Very recently I contributed in a paper published on the similar topic in April 2014. This is how my PhD was so exciting and fun. My PhD advisor is Prof. Walter Hu who thinks that Nepalese students are very bright. After my PhD, I moved to University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, North Carolina for new challenges and opportunities. My postdoctoral research was also nanostructured organic solar cells but this time the focus was to maximize the light absorption. The concept of national science foundation (NSF) funded project was to mimic black spot of butterfly wings and utilized it in solar cells for maximum light absorption to increase solar cells efficiency. As a nanofabrication expert, I had given a most challenging part of the project to mimic the butterfly wings photonic structures or fabricate the similar nanostructures of butterfly wings. These structures are of interest since 1970 after Helen Ghiradella, a pioneer in this field Now the topic is interested to physicists and engineers see examples here  However, the research is conducted using natural wings of butterfly and nobody even knew if the current engineering technology is able to mimic such complex photonic structures in nature. After several failure and frustrations, most exciting time finally came. I was able to demonstrate that photonic nanostructures of the various butterfly wings can actually be fabricated using existing conventional engineering technology over large area in low cost. (Read my interview in Beneath the AVS Surface, Replicating Nature: A new method to mimic the light-manipulating properties of butterfly wings: in AVS highlight at In a very short period of time, I made breakthrough in my major project and made several outstanding contributions in the team. Since I left too early my post-doctoral research (left just after 1 year) to join a startup in California; So, I could not continue my research in that topic for more breakthroughs. 
How is your experience in joining Rolith, Inc. as a Process Engineer? Was there any culture shock in moving to industry?
Rolith Inc. is a startup nanotechnology company (see application page for here ). I am here almost from the beginning of the company. A startup company has to develop from the proof of concept to manufacturing level. Of course, a small company has limited resources and a fixed target as compare to research institute where one can have freedom for various researches and access to many instruments. Working in Rolith, a startup company is more or less similar to research institute with limited facilities and certain research goal. There was not any cultural sock for me after I moved from my postdoctoral research to Rolith. It is also because of my research interests. My research interests of nano-fabrications for various applications such as anti-reflecting surfaces etc. are well match with the interests of this company. After I joined Rolith Inc, I made some breakthroughs, contributed US patents and several conference papers. In academia I was highly appreciated by my PhD advisors, post-doctoral advisors and the people in the field. I could present in several conferences in front of large audiences. Here probably not as much, but I am happy from what I could contribute to the company for moving forward. 

 A general perception is that industry experience is very demanding. How do you balance life and work? 
It has been great so far! Though work hours are long, I don't need to work from home. While I am at home, I give time for my family. I live with my wife, a nine year old son and a five year old daughter. Evening time and weekends are mostly for family. I think a professor has to be much busier than an engineer in industry. We don't need to worry about a grant proposal, publications, and class preparation and so on. There are of course pros and cons in everywhere. For example university jobs are stable, while people tend to move frequently from one job to another in industries. 
 Could you please give us a snapshot of your one day in office? How much of table research versus the experimental work is involved? 
The short term and long term goal of the company are discussed in the meeting and the work is assigned for the week. As an employee my goal is to complete the assign tasks in timely manner, find the solution of the problem by designing experiments and performing them, and report the progress or difficulties in the meeting. Everyday is not the same but in general more time is assign for experimental work than literature search. Working hours are flexible but it’s about the feeling responsibility and performing as much as I can to complete the task. In general my office starts around 8:30 in the morning and end at 6 PM. In between, I come home for lunch as I live about 5 minutes’ drive. .
Could you please share one or two interesting ‘aha’ moments in your research career or industrial job? 
Yes, I can share a couple of interesting moments with you. In 2008, my team published concept paper of nanostructured organic solar (plastic solar) cells and we applied US patents as well. So there was lot of excitements. Pretty soon we realized that the efficiency was much lower than we expected. Life is full of ups and downs like sinusoidal curve. It happens almost everywhere in life. The best scenario was to get high efficiency but it was not happening. When I was trying to find the reason behind the unexpected results, I discovered a fundamental polymer behavior due to Nanoimprinting. At that moment I was so excited that then I could get a good publications and my PhD. Next moment I want to share that was happened when I was doing post doc at UNC. Several times I hoped to get pine tree structures similar to butterfly wings’ in the sample while observing under scanning electron microscope (SEM). It had not happened several times for long. It was November 2010 and I was imaging. I saw pine tree structures under microscope and I shouted and jumped high like a soccer player had made a goal! I was alone that time and right after I saw my co-worker at the door and I showed him the results. I and my team finally proved that we could fabricate most complex structures of nature, photonic structures of butterfly wings. 
The technology evolves fast, are the requirements and qualifications/experiences/skills for a new hire changing in the similar rate? Any words of wisdom for the new comers into the industry, or in general which kind of skill sets are on demand? 
Technology evolves fast is true and the requirements for new hire are also changing. However, the requirements for a new hire may not be changing in the similar rate. I think evolution of new technology is the results of mostly advancements in thoughts or creativities. In other words performance of new jobs may not always require new skills just like using same pen and paper we can write different stories. However, competition increases more and more over time. The more skills we have more the chances of getting hired. The skill sets depends on the types of jobs so it is hard to say what kinds of skills are required in general. It is good to have access in modern characterization tools such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM), tunneling electron microscopy (TEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM), and X-ray diffraction (XRD) among others in nanotechnology research. Nowadays it looks like if you don’t have some basic computer programming skills, you are lacking something. 
 There have been talks about supporting research activities in Nepal by Alumni of TU. What could be the best way to start/support/foster such activities? 
 Sharing research ideas and activities we are doing here, providing literatures that are not available/not accessible from Nepal, financial support to purchase some instruments can be some among others. Theoretical research ideas may be more useful than those requires high cost instruments. We can update new publications in common forum, share thesis etc. I had made an extra copy of thesis for physics department and dropped it there last December when I visited Nepal. One idea may be that we can discuss about conducting yearly conference meeting of Nepalese scientists in USA. There, we can discuss more about opening industries and research centers in Nepal.
 Earlier you told about your professional aim. How was your ‘aim in life’ developed? 
To elaborate more, professional aim is what kind of profession we want to choose for living a comfortable life. I think ‘life aim’ and professional aim are two different things. One can choose to be a doctor, a teacher or a farmer etc. Yes, earlier I was just talking about professional aim. It has been changing over time. In the beginning I wanted to be teacher and a farmer. Later it was changed to university professor in Nepal. Now I am working in industry. Certainly, as a teenager, my ‘aim in life’ was not to be a scientist and work for USA. Engineering or research is my profession and it can be changed too. However, life aim is developed over time through learning by experience and realizing the purpose of life, knowing the meaning of life, why I am in this earth, what makes difference if I am not here, what kind of legacy I can leave after me etc. When one achieves this aim, s/he can gain inner satisfaction. Then one can see the meaning of life. My aim in life is to help others and that was developed since I was a teenager and it is still growing and taking shape. I think that my life will be successful if I can make society move forward even a little bit. When I was teenager, I was very much impressed by life of our great poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota. “खोज्छन सबै सुख भने सुख तो कहाँ छ? आफु मिटाई अरुलाई दिनु जहाँ छ |” Translation: Where is happiness if everybody is looking for it? There where you make yourself empty giving to others. So, I developed myself that I want to help other, do social work and help society. The types of questions where I grew up, where I studied etc. make all of us emotional. We are not there where we grew up, we are not there where we learn to be human or learn to be a good citizen, where we got life. So many of us grown up, and left. Some of us left village and go to cities, some of us left country. When we thought we were successful and we left our country. If we were not successful we wouldn’t. This sounds like kind of selfishness. I like to add here that I am glad to see increasing number of Nepali physics PhD every year. Doing PhD is great and after that it is time to think what can we do back home. Let’s hope Nepal will not just be a man power producer for USA or other developed countries. As I mentioned earlier, we can help recent graduate for the opportunities abroad. However, that should not be counterproductive for the country by sending brain power abroad. In the other hand we cannot stop brain drain if there are no opportunities in the country. Therefore we have to think two things here. First: help new graduate for higher education abroad, second: do something for the advancement of the country to create some opportunity for the new comers. 
It seems you have a plan to do some social work for your society, could you please elaborate? 
To talk about myself, after I completed M. Sc., my aim was to encourage and help younger generation for higher education. I and my friends from Isma established an organization named ‘Ismali Kosh’ (now Ismali Samaj) with the aim that any student or anyone from our area could get load for his need and return later. It is still growing. Five years ago, we (I and my wife) established “Premnath Memorial Scholarship Fund” in my father’s name. Now the fund has been utilizing through Ismali Samaj Kathmandu so that the Samaj gives prize for three top SLC students from Isma village every year. We are hoping we can do more in the future. Then, we get inner satisfaction regardless the type of profession we do and it really does not matter where we stay (home or abroad). Any work that can help our society move forward is appreciated. For example, I recently learned about initiative in anti-corruption, poverty alleviation and several inspirational programs by Hemsarita Pathak Academy founded by our friend Hem Pathak and team. 
Thank you Nabin Ji for this opportunity to express my views in your blog!

It is our pleasure to have you!- Thank you!!!NKM

Saturday, April 12, 2014

An interview with Dr. Suman Neupane

Congratulations to Dr. Suman Neupane (Scholar page) for successfully defending his PhD thesis from Physics Department (Florida International University). He is also the recipient of the best dissertation award (more here!). We gladly present an interview with him.

1.     Please tell us about yourself. (Nepal School, Masters experience and travel to PhD institutions. Did you teach? Also any links, personal websites, and a photo etc.)
I come from a middle class family of Chapagaon which lies in the outskirt of Kathmandu valley. After finishing high school from Lalitpur Madhyamik Vidyalaya, I joined Amrit Science College with the aim of studying physics to prepare for a teaching career at higher education. I finished Bachelors in science from Tri-Chandra college and Masters’ in Physics from the Central Department of Physics In Tribhuvan University. During the transitional periods from one level to another, I taught in different schools for a total time of about 30 months.  After my Masters degree, I taught physics for three years in Kathmandu and joined Florida International University in January 2008.

2.       Could you please describe your PhD research in plain English?
During my PhD, I was involved in the experimental study of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and related materials. A graphene (Nobel prize, 2010) layer consists of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal arrays. A CNT can be visualized a multiple layer of graphene rolled into a tubular structure. As the name suggests, the diameter of CNTs can be as little as few nanometers (one-billionth of a meter) while the length could run to several hundred micrometers.  Due to their special structure, CNTs have strength greater than of steel and are several times lighter than aluminum. CNTs have potential in application of being used as electron source for displays, electrode in lithium ion battery, agent for drug delivery, composite materials for high-strength materials, etc. During my PhD, I was primarily focused in enhancing the electron emission properties of CNT arrays, studying the structural evolution of carbon nanotubes during lithiation and delithiation cycles in lithium ion batteries. I was also involved in the research of materials like ruthenium dioxide, titanium dioxide for energy storage applications.

3.       What are the social applications of your research/ short-term or long-term impact of your research to the society?
Carbon nanotube has potential for applications in various fields: Carbon nanotubes have been added to strengthen materials for sports equipment, body armor, vehicles, rockets, and building materials.  CNTs also find applications in solar cells for renewable source of energy. Using carbon nanotubes as the electrodes in lithium ion battery, capacitors provides more current and better electrical and mechanical stability than other leading materials. Carbon nanotube based devices can be used in efficient displays. In the long term, CNTs can are also expected to play a major role in biomedical applications.

4.       How was your graduate school experience?
My graduate school was a big learning experience. Coming from a background with a very little experimental skills, it takes a lot of time and effort to learn several skills for survival. Closely following post-docs and senior graudate students will help to get through ups and down of graduate school. One needs overall transformation, dexterity, reading and writing skills, computational skills  all needed to be acquired.

5.       Please share few useful tips that you wish you were told when you applied for PhD.
A student coming to graduate school should be prepared to around 5 years of hardship. It would take at 10 year for  a person to get a real job and settle down. So, the message to convey to a enthusiast is that THIS IS A NEW BEGINNING. While choosing the school, choose the school which has research going in right direction. Go to
(i) Google scholar and check where the professors are publishing recently.
(ii) Check the funding history of the professors
(iii) Check where the recent graduates are??
(iv) Check the RATE MY PROFESSOR, this might give a little idea about the attitude of the professor.

6.       Where do you want to be in the next 5 years? What are your hobbies, and spare time activities?
I have recently joined as a post doctoral associate continuing the research. It will be another challenging 5 years. Joining a research institute will be an ideal case scenario.
For the hobbies, I prefer playing and watching sports, traveling, watching games, following news from around the world.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Interview with Dr. Chetan Dhital

In our effort to highlight Nepali physicists, we are inviting recent physics-PhD graduates. We congratulate Dr. Chetan Dhital for defending his PhD in Physics. Presenting a brief interview with him.

First of all, thank you Nabin jee for your time and effort.
Q. Please tell us about yourself. (Nepal School, Masters experience and travel to PhD institutions. Did you teach? Also any links, personal websites, and a photo etc.)
I was born in Bahundangi, a remote village in Jhapa, Nepal. I passed SLC from a government school near my village. When I passed SLC, my goal was to become a B.Sc. teacher so I joined I. Sc. in MMAM Campus Biratnagar where I finished both I. Sc. and B.Sc. After finishing B.Sc., I taught in a boarding high school for about 1 year. During that one year I changed my mind and went to Kathmandu to study M. Sc. in physics. I started to realize the beauty and importance of physics during those four years of my Master study. After finishing M.Sc, I taught undergraduate physics courses in Damak Multiple Campus Damak, Jhapa Nepal for about 3 years. In 2008, I got the opportunity to come to Boston College for pursuing Ph.D. in physics.
Q. Could you please describe your PhD research in plain English.  
My work during Ph.D is more about the fundamental physics which may not have direct immediate application. I worked mainly on two systems (1) Oxides of Iridium (2) Iron based superconductors. My work is focused in understanding different exotic electronic/magnetic phases in these materials by measuring electrical transport, magnetization and neutron scattering techniques.
Wait: why exotic?
In a hand waving argument, if one tries to confine charged particles in a small volume then charges experience mutual electric repulsion which blocks their movement resulting in an insulator so called Mott insulator. If the charges are allowed to stay inside a larger volume, they can avoid strong repulsion and may result in conducting states if the volume (band) is half filled. This is main theme of conventional band theory. In a solid the charged particles are electrons and the volume is the orbital occupied by electrons. If we believe the above picture and take the particular examples of Sr3Ru2O7 and Sr3Ir2O7, we should expect more metallic behavior in Sr3Ir2O7 than that in Sr3Ru2O7 because 5d orbitals of iridium are more extended than 4d orbitals of ruthenium. But the reality is opposite i.e Sr3Ir2O7 is insulator and Sr3Ru2O7 is a metal. In fact most of the oxides containing iridium in its 4+ valence state show such deviation from conventional wisdom. This is why they are exotic. Here the major player is spin-orbit interaction strength in iridates which is not just a perturbation term as in 3d compounds. Thus iridates (oxides of iridium) host many exotic quantum phases like spin liquid, quantum spin ice, Mott-insulators etc. We map out the electronic/magnetic phase behavior some typical doped and parent iridates. Regarding the second project, the key question in high temperature superconductivity is the mechanism responsible for superconductivity. In iron-based superconductors, the superconducting transition is always preceded by crystal and magnetic structural transition. My study is focused in understanding the structural and magnetic phase behavior of the electron doped superconducting system via neutron scattering.
Q. What are the social applications of your research/ short-term or long-term impact of your research to the society?
As I already mentioned, they may not have direct social impact. However, as we know transition metal oxides are also called functional materials, which have very good thermal and chemical stability allowing their use over a wide range of temperature and different chemical environments. In fact modern day electronics are based on transition metal oxide devices. The properties of these oxides are governed by the interplay of different competing energy scales. More players mean more ways of tuning the properties of these functional materials.
I think I do not have to say anything about the social/economic impact of high temperature superconductor (I wish we had room temperature superconductor) in this fast paced world where we are severely lacking our energy demand. But, to know the superconductivity better, one has to know ‘what was there at high temperature that becomes superconductor at low temperature’. My research is about “what was at high temperature”?
Q. How was your graduate school experience? (Specifically in terms of preparations towards your PhD, awards etc. Which skill(s) in particular you needed to sharpen, skills that you already had from previous institutions etc.)
In my view, the graduate study in USA is more student centered and practical. However, the courses we took in Master level especially the solid-state physics courses were very helpful. For my case, the graduate study period was satisfactory. I had the opportunity to perform several experiments in different national laboratories around the world. I think the productivity depends up on several factors such as your devotion and interest in the work, your relation with PhD advisor, your field of study etc.
In my case, there was a good combination of all these factors. I was awarded with GMAG student dissertation award from American Physical Society. This award is given every year for 2 or 3 graduate students working in magnetism who are going to graduate within September of that year. The student has to be a member of GMAG unit in APS and should be nominated by his advisor. There are some other awards that are also included in the following link. also authored/coauthored about 16 peer reviewed journals which can be found in the following link: you are working in Neutron scattering then there is a website for Neutron scattering society of America which provides information about awards and conferences.
Q. Please share few useful tips that you wish you were told when you applied for PhD.
To be honest, I was not fully aware of American style when I applied for graduate program. I used to write email to office secretary rather than professors or graduate advisor, which was a big mistake. Here, one can directly write to graduate advisor without any hesitation. Nowadays, the access to internet is easier than the time I applied, so one can easily find the departments that match with his research interest. Although our interest does not always work, however, I would suggest giving priority to those departments where your research interests match.  If you have two options, then money should not be the primary factor for decision-making. Furthermore, familiarize yourself with some common programs like matlab, origin, mathematica, igor etc before coming here. I think there should be a computational course at least in master level physics.
Q. Where do you want to be in the next 5 years? What are your hobbies, and spare time activities?
For the next step, I am joining as a postdoctoral research associate in Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  My next step is to give a shot for research faculty in suitable graduate schools (You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,). If that doesn’t work, I want to stay in some suitable research and development department. However, I like to say “it is life”.
If you have kids then definition of spare time becomes vague. However, if I have time then I know how to watch basketball, soccer and cricket. I also enjoy watching comedy programs and movies and of course Nepal and world news.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Interview with Dr. Narayan Chapagain

We are presenting an interview with Dr. Narayan Chapagain. His successful journey from the remote village of Syangja to USA has taken another leap to Nepal. He has returned to the Associate Professor of Physics position in the Tribhuvan University, with international exposure, experience and a great motivation to uplift the research activities in Nepal. He is recipient of the prestigious NASA heliophysics Jack Eddy Postdoctoral Fellowship award and author of several research papers and books.

0. Congratulations on being elected the editor of NPS. Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? (Where did you grow up, where and when you studied etc.) Your research interest and website/URL/Linkedin etc.

Thanks Nabin ji.
I was born in a remote village from Syangja district. I had to move around 5 hours walking distance away from my village for elementary and middle school. I completed my high school from Palpa district. For the college education, I moved to Kathmandu and I completed my I.Sc. and B.Sc from Trichandra College and M.Sc. in Physics from the Central Department of Physics, Tribhuvan University. Since then, I joined as a faculty member in Physics at Patan M. Campus. I got a scholarship to study Post Graduate Courses in Space and Atmospheric Sciences organized by Centre for Space Science and Technical Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTE-AP) affiliated to the United Nations. I completed my Postgraduate Diploma from Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, and Master in Technology (M.Tech.) in Space and Atmospheric Sciences from Andhra University, India in 2003. In 2005, I moved to United States to peruse my further education and completed my Ph.D. in Space Physics in 2011 from Utah State University, UT, USA. I won the very prestigious Jack-Eddy Postdoctoral Fellowship Award sponsorship by NASA Living With a Star Helliophysics Program in a host institute at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. After my two years of postdoctoral research experiences, I returned to my home institute, Tribhuvan University, Nepal in 2013 and I have been continuing my faculty position as an associated professor in Physics.

During my M.Sc., I was involved in theoretical research work in Plasma Physics while in my M.Tech. degree, I worked on analysing the ozone data over Kathmandu measured by both ground- and space-based observations. My present research is focused on electrodynamics of thermosphere-ionosphere, especially low-latitude ionospheric irregularities and its coupling effects on neutral dynamics. I have used optical imaging data, radar and satellite observations and modelling works as well. The webpage indicating of my activities are as follows:

1. How did you decide to study physics? Did anyone, in particular, influence you?
Physics was one of my favourite subjects during my I.Sc. classes. My determination to study Physics as my future career intensely augmented during my B.Sc. course when I became only one to pass the Physics subject in B.Sc first year among the hundreds of students from Trichandra campus by acquiring highest score in Physics throughout the country. So, my interest studying physics ought to be seeded during my I.Sc. class that became animated during my B.Sc. course.
2. What strategies did you use to be successful in college?
Education system in Nepal is quite different compared to the education system from abroad. Student’s overall quality or success is primarily determined by their percentage acquired in the annual exam. Students, who attend regular classes and intensively prepare their final exam during a couple of months, can secure a good percentage. This is the trend of most of the students in Nepal. However, I usually tried to understand the subjects in depth and think analytically and realize practically in our common sense. In addition, I used to balance my time between academics and my social life; I think that is the most important eminence required to be a successful student.
3. You have a long teaching experience. How was your experience in becoming formal student again during the PhD?
As I moved to US for my Ph.D. after 13 years of teaching experiences, I was wondering that how could I adopt as a fresh student in the university. When I joined to the university, I found many adult undergraduate and graduate students. In US, adult students also used to go to university after their job retirements or family settlements. So, I never felt any hesitation as becoming a PhD formal student and I easily adopted with the education system in US. I always used to keep me busy to prepare homework, exams and research works. In recognition of my outstanding academic performances, I was honoured by several prestigious awards and scholarships from the university.
4 What have you found to be the roughest aspect of being a physicist, if any?
I think, sometimes this can happen in the research project. When one puts an immense effort to a research project with a lot of investment of times and funding, but these all efforts will be useless if a proper result is not obtained. On the other hand, sometimes a genuine research result may not be accepted for the publication due to the biasness of the different group interest. I think this is the saddest part in this profession; however, occurrences of such cases may be very rare.
5. You are also a recipient of the prestigious Jack Eddy Postdoctoral Fellowship Award from the UCAR Visiting Scientists Program. Could you please share the experience?
Jack Eddy Postdoctoral Fellowship is a very prestigious award organized by University Corporation of Atmospheric Research (UCAR) visiting scientist program and sponsored by NASA Living With a Star Heliophysics program. The stringent selection criteria for this fellowship include outstanding research accomplishments, publications, the quality of research proposal and its impact on future research in space physics. I am proud to mention that I am one of only three recipients of this award in a global competition.
6. Do you have a favorite research paper (written by yourself or somebody else)? Could you please suggest the practical applications of your research outcomes?
There are my several favorite research papers that report on the dynamics of low-latitude ionospheric irregularities. I would like to mention one of my research papers that explains climatology of post-sunset equatorial spread F using radar observations. This paper was listed among the top five most popular papers in Space Physics published in Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR) by American Geophysical Union (ACU). The paper reports the seasonal and solar cycle variation on onset of ionospheric irregularities heights and times that is significantly important to determine the altitude of the satellite path in which GPS signal will be disrupted due to the fluctuations of radio signal that passes through the ionosphere. Improving our knowledge and understanding of the drivers of this day-to-day variability is a very active area of research in the Space Weather program and Aeronomy community due to its importance for both civilian and military communications and transportation. As space-based technologies become increasingly intertwined into our day-to-day lives and national security, it becomes paramount to understand how they can be disrupted. For example, when plasma in the ionosphere between a satellite and a receiver is turbulent, the transmitted signals scintillate similar to the twinkling of starlight as it traverses through the turbulent atmosphere. This scintillation poses a problem for a receiver, which can lose the ability to track that signal. Additionally, the structures in the ionosphere can degrade navigation solutions obtained from the Global Positioning System (GPS) beyond expected accuracies, adversely affecting technologies that rely on this system. Simulations indicate that the dynamic response can be forecasted a few days ahead, suggesting the possibility of ionospheric irregularity prediction given the right set of observations.
7. As the editor of NPS, could you please share your future plan?
So far NPS is not able to publish any standard journal of physics. My first plan is to publish NPS journal biannually and working toward peer review journal publication. To achieve this goal, we have to develop the dynamics website of NPS to publish the articles online. For this purpose, we need a financial support and expertise in the field of physics. We have a huge numbers of high skilled Nepalese Physicists around the globe, especially from USA. I believe that they are ready to contribute NPS whenever needed. So I am planning to make a proper environment and network to get a full cooperation from all physicists. I would like to propose a plan to collect financial support for NPS activities with a motto that “One-dollar per month for NPS”. A small contribution from single member will collectively make a great strength of the contribution to conduct NPS activities. I also request all Physicists around the globe to provide their feedback, suggestions and collaboration to make the NPS journal publications as a peer review.
8. What are the current challenges in Nepal for research activities? Are there short-term and long-term items, which could address the challenges?
There are several factors that affect research activities in Nepal. The current education system including elementary school to college is not suitable to prepare the students and faculties to involve in the research works. Our teaching methodology does not focus to develop the creativity skills of the students that is very crucial to generate the interest of the students in the research field. We don’t have adequate facilities and funding to carry out the research projects for the undergraduate and graduate students. The institutes responsible for research funding under the umbrella of Nepal Government, such as University Grant Commission (UGC), Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), and Tribhuvan University are suffering from politicization. The leaders of these institutes are generally appointed on the basis of their political thought rather than their academic performances. So, they are directly influenced from the political leaders and they cannot function aptly to strengthen the research activities. As a short-term plan, we have to encourage the students and faculties to make involvement in the research projects by creating a proper environment as well as providing the financial support. I believe that the universities should lead the research activities by making clear and transparent policy. Professors should be appointed and promoted on the basis of their research grants awarded, publication records, and serving as an adviser to the students for their research projects. The research institutes and universities should be autonomous and keep them out of political influences so that highly qualified and visionary leadership can get the opportunity to lead the institutes who can develop national and international collaboration for the research projects. In long term policy, structure and organization of the education system in Nepal should be changed in such a way that the students and faculties will be highly encouraged to involve in the research projects.
Perhaps, most problematic for research activities in developing nations like Nepal is the brain drain. Leaders, planners, and administrators have less interest in national development as their entire families are migrating. Nowadays, every elite and middle class family from Nepal dreams to send their children abroad for further education or training. We are heading towards a situation where there will be scarcity of intellectual minds within the country. When a society’s best and brightest people move away in pursuit of better opportunities, the country will suffer from the lack of skilled manpower for its development. Skilled and well-trained manpower is very important for the research activities and for the overall development of the country. This issue can be addressed only when there is political stability and some prospects for economic prosperity. We can initiate a project to reverse the flow by doing campaigns to lure Nepali professionals back to Nepal on short and long-term internships.
9. Sir, would you like to add anything else?
I would like to share that I am back to Nepal from United States after my PhD and Postdoctoral research experience with having a robust commitment to contribute to our nation in the field of Physics on teaching and research projects. Our huge number of high skilled manpower in Physics has been dispersed around the world, while many of them are also holding a prominence status. I would like to request to all Nepalese Physicist around the globe to contribute to our motherland in research works by their academic and financial supports. We can conduct collaborating research projects by making involvement of our manpower including students from Nepal and also by proper utilization of our resources. A small support from an individual member will collectively be a great contribution to our country that can change our society significantly.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Interview with Dr. Mim Lal Nakarmi

We are presenting a brief interview with Dr. Mim Lal Nakarmi.  He was recently promoted as a tenured professor in Brooklyn College, NY. Presenting a brief, yet inspiring interview with him.

Prof. Mim Lal Nakarmi
0. Sir, Congratulations on getting the promotion and Tenure @ Brooklyn College. Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself.  
MLN:   I was born and grown up in Banepa. All my school level learning was in Banepa. At college level, I did I.Sc. at ASCOL, B. Sc. at Tri-Chandra, and M. Sc. at TU, Kirtipur. After M.Sc. I started teaching at Kathmandu University. While teaching there, I also did M. S. in Electronics from BITS (Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences), Rajasthan, India. After teaching at Kathmandu University for some years, I started Ph.D. program in physics at Kansas State University (K-State) from 2000 and finished in 2005. After that I worked as a post-doc for two years in the same research group. In 2007, I moved to New York to start my career as tenure-track Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York (CUNY). My tenure and promotion will be effective from Fall 2014.
My research field is experimental semiconductor physics. I am involved mainly in the growth and characterization of wide band gap semiconductors for optoelectronic applications. I spent most of the time in the development of semiconductor materials such as Aluminum Nitride (AlN) and Aluminum Gallium Nitride (AlGaN) alloys for deep UV applications during Ph.D. and post-doc. In this course, we have to study structural, electrical, optical properties of the materials. AlN that has a direct band gap of about 6.1 eV at room temperature is the one I explored the most and utilized in the fabrication of 280 nm deep UV light emitting diodes (LEDs). Deep UV LEDs have application in next generation general purpose lighting, air/water purification, bio-chemical agent detection, medical/research applications etc. I am continuing the similar research at Brooklyn College. Recently I collaborated to work on zinc oxide (ZnO) aiming to achieve p-type. I have also studied optical and electrical properties of multiferroic materials in collaboration with Prof. Ram Rai at SUNY College at Buffalo. I am building my research lab facility for material synthesis. My focus will still be on deep UV materials, but I am also going to develop different structures such as one dimensional nanowires and two dimensional mono-layer in addition to thin films structures. My research activities can be viewed in my websites

1. What was your aim in life as a teenager? How did you decide to study physics? When did you know you wanted to be a physicist? Did anyone, in particular, influence you? 
 MLN:  I used to say I would be a doctor in future. But I joined in a physical group in I. Sc. because biology was not my favorite subject. So I was in engineering track sort of in I. Sc. but at the same time I found physics a very interesting subject.  So, my interest to be a physics student ought to be seeded during the I. Sc. period. Our family has already an engineer and I was not attracted that much in that field. Without seeking aggressively for engineering admission, I did B.Sc. and M.Sc. with physics and math. Although those years were like roaming without precise destination, after I started teaching at KU as a Lecturer, I came to realize that there is no real future without Ph.D. in that career. That time, few people have already started Ph.D. programs abroad. I also started seeking for Ph.D. admission. Email/internet was just made available in Nepal. That helped me a lot to get information about admission for PhD. I am very thankful to my friends Sunil Shrestha and Jagat Shakya who were already in USA at that time for my admission in PhD.

2. What strategies did you use to be successful in college, as a student? 
MLN:   I was not a very good student at colleges in Nepal. I like to study to understand the subject. Since the exams in Nepal are not the test of understanding, my exam scores were not good. In other words exams in Nepal are not test of knowledge rather memory test. So my habit and strategy did not work. But I did much better when I studied at BITS and K-State because they look for conceptual understanding and test in the same way in the exams. For the classroom performance, I also try to understand teacher’s psychology. If you have experience of teaching and writing exams it’s easy to get it. To be a successful in a long run, one should try to understand in depth. We cannot have depth understanding of all, so one may scan quickly to get surface knowledge of the field. Once you know your topic of interest, sufficient effort has to be made utilizing all available resources on the topics of your interest.

3. Could you please share your favorite research papers? 
MLN:   There are no such special papers I published that I can say it’s my favorite one so far. If you have particular question about any of the papers I have co-authored please contact me by email or other ways.

4. As a professor, do classes have personality? Any tips on dealing with students in a big class and then as a single individual? 
MLN:   Personality matters everywhere since it is the first thing people make perception on you. But after all, student will judge based on how knowledgeable you are how well you can explain. That’s why beginner has to study more before the class. For big class, a professor especially beginner, has to design the class in order to make the teaching/learning process effective before the class. Depending upon the topic of the day, the class has to be careful designed how to introduce the topic, how to interact with students, how to get the feedback and how to test. First thing to do in a new class is to win students trust. Allow them to ask, or ask them to make sure most of the students understand what you are trying to teach. Keep eye contacts with everyone so that students know that they are being watched. These things also come with experience.
5. How to make a class effective? Is there a defined structure to achieve maximum benefit from teacher/student contact? 
MLN:   In order to make a class effective I use the following strategy. Once I have the topic for next class, I first think as if I were a student of the class, pretending as an average level student in the class. After that I check the goal of the topic. And then I design the class where to raise the question/ where to give examples or demonstration, give some time for discussion or activity, which problems to solve or ask them to solve, etc. Class should not be monotonous. That is why ‘Lecture’ mode of teaching is not considered now as an effective way of teaching. My personal experience also supports it. Especially teaching science in ‘Lecture’ mode is the least effective method.
There are lots of effective teaching methods developed recently by physics education research groups. All of them are intended to engage the students in the class and learn by actively participating in the class through hands-on activities, working together, discussions, project works etc.  Our traditional lecture rooms are not suitable for utilizing most of these kinds of teaching methods.

6. Could you share some effective teaching techniques that result in intended learning. 
MLN:   I have been using an active learning method called SCALE-UP (Student Center Active Learning Environment for University Physics) in general physics courses. Classroom for this teaching method is completely different from traditional ones. The SCALE-UP classroom has round tables like in a restaurant for 9 students in each table and they are divided into 3 groups. The three students in the group work together or learn each other. Each topic is generally introduced by hands-on activity. They collectively perform the activities and draw conclusion what they learned. They can also discuss with other groups. They also work together in problem solving. The classroom is made technology rich with laptop for each group, whiteboards around the classroom so that they can discuss with others or present their works. Instructor has to monitor students’ progress and help them to bring into the track. They also perform lab in the same room correlating the subject they are learning that week. There are regular quizzes which force students to prepare at home and help for feedback. Quite often I use Interactive Lecture Demonstration (ILD) in that class which enhances conceptual understanding. In ILD, students not only observe the demonstration, they have to think, predict what would happen, observe what really happens and discuss on the results. This helps to understand if there is any misconception. From my evaluation survey tests, average gain of the conceptual understanding in the SCALE-UP mode is about double of the traditional lecture mode.

7. Could you please share independent study/ projects with your students. Or any interesting moments with students. 
MLN:   There are many students I have mentored in independent study and research projects. They are mostly physics majors. Some students decided to go for graduate programs due to their involvement in the research projects.
I think my interesting moment with students would be in general physics class. There are always some students in the class who never had physics before. In their high school, they did not learn physics at all or do not know what happens in physics class. After a while they say, this course needs thinking and this professor really makes you think to understand in this class.

8. What have you found to be the roughest aspect of discipline, if any? 
MLN:   I think we are still not able to present physics in a simple way that everyone likes to know. Another rough aspect could be, although most people in science make significant investment of effort and life, their financial status in their life is mostly poor.

9. Tenure process is regarded as a daunting exercise. Could you please share tips on balancing life and work? 
MLN:   Tenure period is the time to prove you as a successful person in teaching, research and college service. Evaluation is done in most places based on these three categories. You have to show your significant contributions in all these sectors. Most institutes give more preference in research. However, poor teaching evaluation may also lead to denying from tenured. You have to check with your college and know how the evaluations are done.  Actually one has to spend more time on preparation for teaching in the beginning because you do not want to be a band professor in the class. In the mean time you have start thinking about research projects, writing proposals for grant, getting students in the lab for research projects. Some institutes evaluate every year for reappointment. One could be out before during the tenure track period. So you have to maintain the progress. Working on short term and long term projects in parallel is a useful idea. Some projects can be done in collaboration with others. Family support is a must. You cannot spend enough time (with them) until tenured. Family also needs to understand and cope with you for your success. There was a joke told in the orientation that tenure track professor does not see daylight until tenured.
Enjoying with the work including dealing with problems is the key to success. Once we enjoy with our work, it will be part of our life. Our life is successful if we are successful at work.

10. Sir, not being a professional interviewer, are there questions I have not asked that you wish I would have? Or anything to add? 
MLN:   There are lots of Nepalese physicists now in the USA working as post-doc. If anybody likes to discuss personally please do not hesitate to contact me. We have to increase this number as we did in the number of graduate students from Nepal. In order to get tenure track professor job, requirement has to be very well matched. Additionally, one has to compete with selected candidates in application process and interview process. One has to exhibit an outstanding quality to distinguish from others. So, it may need more pre-plans and quality works. If you are working as post-doc, my suggestions are, take opportunity of grant writing, teaching classes in undergraduate, mentoring students, designing your own research project and publishing articles.
Lastly, in order to improve quality of our work, we have to initiate research work while studying in Nepal. As a contribution to our motherland, I am proposing to establish a research fund to initiate physics research in Nepal. The fund will be used to support research projects in Nepal which can expand the research works and publish in international journals so that proposals can be developed for bigger grants. Contributions to the fund are collected from all physicists in the USA including graduate students. I think our small contribution every year will make a big change in our society.
Thank you Nabin ji.

NKM: Thank you for your time!  

This is an attempt to share successful Nepali physicists. The hope is to invite one personality every month. Please kindly suggest whom to invite next.