Born and brought up in Khotang, Jib Raj Pokhrel received his initial education in village. After completing his Intermediate level from Amrit Science College, he did his bachelor’s from Maharaja Sayajirao Baroda University in architecture. Afterward, he joined the University of York in Britain from where he completed his Master’s and PhD. Pokharel, who currently works as the Vice Chancellor of NAST, has interest in conserving architectures, urban planning and crisis management. He designed Maya Devi temple and loves to pen books as well. Books such as Sikshya Sambad, Patan ko Krisna Mandir, Maina Bulbul and Buddha Charitra are under his name.
It has been two years that you have been serving as VC of NAST. What kind of changes or improvements have you introduced in these years?
We have now installed fitter line which enables us to work throughout the night. I pleaded to the then finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat to increase the budget, thus, he have bigger budget now. For that, I would like to forward my gratitude to Nepal government. Recently we also conducted a program named Farka ye Farka Baigyanik Timilai Dakcha Nepal (return scientists, Nepal is calling you) targeting the number of Nepali scientists working abroad.
Some have accused NAST of being passive over the years. What would you say to that?
Since we are based in Kathmandu only, we have been unable to address every problem throughout the country. In order to reach every nook and cranny of Nepal, we are planning to open office in each of the province. Hopefully, after that, we will be able to address every issue there is.
In context of Nepal, we rarely get to see revolutionary or new creation. Where does NAST stand in this?
In the field of science and technology, we cannot expect dramatic changes in short span of time. Scientist spent their entire life generating new technology or ideas. When Thomas Edison invented the bulb, it took him thousands of researches. NAST has its own plans and policies, we are moving forward accordingly.
Can you share some of the projects NAST is working on?
A special research team is working on issues of climate change with the help of Asian Development Bank. It is a major concern of today’s world but, given the diverse geographical structures of Nepal, we need to derive our own results. Other services include water testing, disease in foods and vegetables.
How does NAST help to promote new researchers?
Students can come for internship or fellowship. Students who have completed their education can apply to work as a research assistant or research fellow. If they want to work here permanently, they can apply for the job whenever vacancies are announced. We have an innovation center where we help students who develop new researches.
What kinds of research are needed in Nepali context?
First of all, we need to address the daily need of people. As the season is changing, there are more chances of wildfires. Then dry landslides and earthquake have also caused problems in our country. And the increasing pollution in Kathmandu Valley also needs to be addressed after proper research.
What kind of education system is needed in Nepal, especially in the field of research?
Our education system doesn’t stress on science and technology. In remote areas, schools do not have science teachers. A study has shown that if 60% students are enrolled in science field, development is possible. But, in our context, the number is only 8%. So, we need more investment in the field (research in science and technology). Graduates have problem getting jobs and we need to change that as well.
What role does the government play in upgrading the field?
Foundation needs be strong, so change is needed from ground level. From installing science labs and exposing students to all the aspects of science are required to increase students’ interests. Budget also needs to be increased if we want to change the future of field.
What message would you give to the aspiring researchers?
Be sure of what you want to do. Get necessary education and involve in the field only when you are sure that this is what you want to do. We are here to help you in your endeavors but it is advised that they get academically sound first.