Tell us a bit about Cassini project and its objectives.
NASA/JPL's Cassini Project is a part of the deep space exploration project to explore our solar system. A series of spacecrafts have been launched for this purpose. Cassini's goal is to conduct a detailed study of planet Saturn, its rings, its magnetosphere, its icy satellites and Titan. Cassini spacecraft is carrying Huygens Probe, this contains scientific data analysis instruments. The Probe will be launched and reach the planet surface, collecting data as it descends.
When did you join the project.
I joined the project in early 90s.
How you got involved in this project.
I started working on a student satellite project SURF-SAT while in my senior year at Caltech. On graduation, I was offered a full-time position. Cassini project is one of the many project I work on.
What exactly your role was in this project.
I was part of the spacecraft telecommunication equipment team of engineers who design and build circuits and instruments used in primary and secondary communication link.
Tell us something about your childhood?
I grew up in Karachi, was always interested in electronics and making science projects. Used to hear Radio Pakistan on my 'diode radio' which worked without batteries. Used to light up bulbs during load shedding using residual charge from iron rods dug deep in the ground. That kind of fun stuff.
How many brothers and sisters are you?
One elder brother, Atif, who is a mechanical engineer. One sister, Komal younger than me, biology student, then a younger brother who graduated MBA this year.
How was your school education?
I studied at Habib Public School, Karachi. Completed my O-Level (Cambridge) and went on to Aitchison College Lahore for HSC (equivalent to A-levels).
Were you inspired by anyone in your family to decide on your carrier? Certainly, my parents have been very supportive all along with my inclination. The toys and gifts I used to get were all geared towards experimentation and details on how things works. Modular kits which help put circuits together to books on science and astronomy.
Tell us something about your father?
My father Dr Mohammad Rafique Mughal,T.I., is an ex-Director General of Archaeology. A scholar in Indus Valley Civilization and currently a visiting scholar at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Tell us about your family and children?
I am married for almost seven years now. My wife is, Iraj, a psychologist, we have one five year old son, Ibtahaj.
How was your education experience in the College and University in Pakistan?
Extremely good, enjoyed it. I should mention, after Aitchison College, I took admission in Govt. College Lahore in double Math & Physics. Enjoyed worked on the Physics experiments.
How did you manage on higher education scholarship or on your own?
Alhumdullilah, I was fortunate to receive full financial assistance from universities I attended. Otherwise, it would not have been possible for me to attend universities here. This included combination of grant, loan and work-study. Naturally, working on the campus jobs for students was the only source of income for personal expenses. I had to live very modestly to say the least
How was your experience as a Pakistani student in US?
It was wonderful! I was very surprised to find hardly anyone knew where Pakistan was on world's map. I did my best to educate my friends and colleagues about Pakistan. I found everyone very friendly and accommodating.
How did you move to Informative Technology?
It came very naturally before I realized it. The research I was conducting required writing software programs for design and analysis of our circuits. This meant, we had to maintain the computing infrastructure which hosted the programs and analysis tools. I was taking care of those, laid down network, setup the design center and before I know I was responsible for IT for the design center.
What are your achievement as a Pakistani in US?
It is a difficult question for one to answer. Alhudullilah, I can say I have been blessed with the following:
- Graduated from California Institute of Technology
[Just this month ranked No.1 university in United States by U.S. News & World Report]
- Successful completion of degrees in Physics & Electrical Engineering
- Research & development of SURF-SAT, a student satellite by JPL/NASA.
- My career at Jet Propulsion Laboratory which included working on several deep space missions, including CASSINI which has been recently featured.
- Network Systems & Security Group technical manager at NASA Ames Research center. Included administration of root name server of NASA, one of 9 servers in the world and primary computer security contact for NASA Science Internet.
- Founding of Pakistan News Service.
How did you feel while working with NASA as a Pakistani?
I think it was great and a good learning experience. NASA is certainly home to great minds and its contribution to American society and to the world is phenomenal. I wish Pakistan had a similar civilian space program. What is the Pakistani representation in the international IT field?
There are definitely other Pakistanis in the field who have reached the top but percentage wise very few, only a handful.
What projects are you working at present in Pakistan?
Currently, looking at live internet broadcast (webcast) of TV and radio from Pakistan. Recently founded 'Pakistan Computer Emergency Response Team' (http://pakcert.com.pk) to provide timely information on computer security to IT companies & professionals in Pakistan. We are expanding it further. I am also managing off-shore software development projects in Pakistan.
What are your future goals and Objectives?
I will like to continue with my career in IT field and perhaps startup my own company in this field. Obviously, I will be looking at ways of taking my experience and utilizing it in Pakistan.
When and why did you decide to start Pakistan News Service?
Pakistan News Service was founded on August 14, 1991, arising out of need for providing news and information on Pakistan to students and professionals. Pakistan News Service was the first on-line media of Pakistan reaching all six continents across the globe. At the same time, 100% paperless operation and free of cost to the readers.
How beneficial you can make Pakistan News Service to the Community?
I will like to see Pakistan News Service continue as one of the major portals of information on Pakistan and bringing all of Pakistan to one's desktop. We have expanded to add discussion forum, featured links and section to feature Pakistanis highlighted in the media in their respective fields. Obviously, more community input and feedback the better. We are also adding more community feedback sections. It is a service and its resources are open for utilization free of cost. I invite everyone to come and join the virtual Pakistani community on the Internet.
What suggestion you can give to groom Pakistani Youth in IT and can you develop an effective plan for their placement in local and foreign market?
Certainly, I come across many opportunities which remain open because of unavailability of qualified IT professionals. I see an increasing demand in IT field as computers take on more roles in our daily lives. My suggestion is to start with Computer Science or related technical degree program. I will suggest look for initial jobs in fortune 500 companies to get familiar with wide diversity of IT field and then go on with specialization in the area of choice.
Mughal, ContactPakistan.com and its team thanks you for your time and efforts to put
this interview into reality.