Researchers Discuss Nutritional Challenges in Oman News Round Up Types of Teachers Mind Over Matter Physics Department Celebrates 25th Year News Update Adherence to Traffic Rules Need of the Hour Department of Public Relations and Information Sultan Qaboos University Issue 243 View Point The Dark Side What is the significance of a doctoral thesis? It is both an idea and an account of a period of original research. Writing a thesis by the end of the program is the aim of the hundreds of thousands of students who embark on a doctorate of philosophy every year. In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. It is an entry to the world of independent research, a kind of intellectual masterpiece, created by an learner in close collaboration with a supervisor. Mohamed Salem Al Ghailani Editorial Supervision Humaid Abdullah Al Adwani Editor in Chief M.K. Santhosh Senior Editor Ahlam Al Wahaibi Design & Layout Rashad Al Wahaibi & Photography Dept., CET Photography However, there is a dark side to this. For sure, our aim is not to discourage graduates from taking up higher studies such as doctoral and post doctoral research. The fact is that many students are pursuing their subject out of love, and feels that education is an end in itself. Some give little thought to where the qualification might lead. According to a report published in “The Economist”, in a study of British PhD graduates, about a third admitted said that they were doing their doctorate partly to go on being a student, or put off job hunting. Scientists can easily get stipends, and therefore drift into doing a PhD. But there are penalties, as well as benefits, to staying at university. People with surplus schooling, or more education than a job requires, are likely to be less satisfied, less productive and more likely to say they are going to leave their jobs. The organisations that pay for research have realised that many PhDs find it tough to transfer their skills into the job market. Writing lab reports, giving academic presentations and conducting literature reviews can be surprisingly unhelpful in a world where technical knowledge has to be assimilated quickly and presented simply to a wide audience. Some universities are now offering their PhD students training in soft skills such as communication and teamwork that may be useful in the labour market. It would be worthwhile for a student to make sure before enrolling for doctoral studies and research that it would increase one’s own career benefits. Hard work and brilliance may well not be enough to succeed in career and life. While doing PhD, developing soft skills along with research advancements would be the most feasible option in the modern era. However, these suggestions are not applicable for the real scholars who diligently pursue genuine research. Horizon invites contributions from SQU members of staff and faculty. Contributions in the form of articles, news, travelogues, stories of unique and interesting experiences, encounters, etc., are welcome. Contributions may be edited for the sake of clarity and length. Please send your contributions to [email protected] preferably, as MSWord attachments. Authors will be suitably credited. Horizon is published three times a month by the Department of Public Relations and Information, Sultan Qaboos University, P.O. Box 50, P.C. 123, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. Phone: +968 24141045 E-mail: [email protected] 20 May 2012 P2 Fax: +968 24413 391 Website: www.squ.edu.om SQU Physics Department Celebrates 25th Year The Department of Physics of the College of Science at Sultan Qaboos University, organized a series of events under the patronage of HE Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani, the Vice Chancellor, to mark the 25th year of Physics at SQU. The activities included a formal function which included welcome songs by school children, a speech by Prof. Mujibur Rahman, Head of the Department of Physics, on the department’s achievements during the 25 years, an exhibition featuring the academic, research and community service activities of the department, and two lectures. Dr. Ahmed Al Rawas spoke about nuclear power in Oman and Dr. Tariq Mohiuddin spoke about graphene and the nano-world. The Department of Physics started in 1986, concurrently with the establishment of the University. At present, there are 26 faculty members, three junior academics, 11 technical staff and two administrative staff in the department. The department hosts 261 undergraduates, 15 masters and 3 doctoral students. It offers BSc in Physics, Medical Physics, Nuclear Science and Astronomy and MSc in all disciplines in Physics. PhD program was started in 2009 and all research groups in the department are capable to offer PhD. According to Prof. Mujibur Rahman, the department has research collaborations with many reputed universities in the world and MoU for collaborative research will be signed with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and Oxford University soon. When it comes to community service, the department is giving short term courses to His Majesty’s military personnel, giving training to technical staff from various organizations and helping school children with expert opinion. Prof. Mujibur Rahman concluded that through the past 25 years of its existence, his department has strived for excellence in teaching and research and played a leading role in Oman in training students prepared for the job market. News Update Great Turnout Marks Inshad Festival The 8th Inshad Festival was organized by SQU recently at the Grand Hall of the Cultural Centre under the patronage of His Eminence Sheikh Ahmed bin Hamed Al Khalili, the Grand Mufti of the Sultanate. This year, the annual festival witnessed great turnout of participants and attendees. In his speech, his eminence Sheikh Ahmed Al Khalili underscored the importance of good manners and how it raises the human being, and in this regard, he said that young people who have a good manner make the future of the nation brighter. Delivering the speech of the organizing committee, Ahmed bin Hilal Al Abri, Head of the Religious Counselling & Guidance Department and the Chairman of the Media committee of the festival, said: “This festival started for the first time in 1998, and continues with more giving and efforts from the Islamic Cultural Group which is supervised by the Counselling & Guidance Department and the Dean of Student Affairs.” Commenting on the importance of the festival Al Abri said:” It will contribute to fulfil the goals of religious guidance and student activity which involves shaping the overall personality of students by enriching their strengths in religious, ethical, social, cultural, scientific, and physical activities. He revealed that soon SQU will organize the first Inshad competition in which students from all universities and colleges in Oman could participate. Detailed announcement will be made soon. Project to Align Academic Programs with Job Market Needs Service, Education, Social Development, Manpower in addition to officials from SQU and the Research Council. The project will study the current and future needs of Omani job market in terms of both quality and quantity and establish a specialised database within its stipulated term. The project includes three phases, the preparatory phase which ends on October 31, the implementation phase that will last till April 31 and the final phase which will conclude in September 2013. The first meeting of the committee responsible for a comprehensive project dealing with harmonization of academic programs with the job market requirements in the Sultanate of Oman, was held at SQU recently. The meeting was chaired by HE Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani, Vice Chancellor of SQU and attended by members of the committee from different ministries and other organizations including the Ministries of the Diwan of Royal Court, Civil Dr. Ali Al Bimani said that being the leading higher education and research institution in Oman, SQU has a major role to play in the initiative of harmonizing the academic programs with the job market needs. He hoped that the project would be successful in providing effective solutions to the problems experienced by the educated job seekers in the country. The project envisages interaction with the private sector organizations too in preparing the data base and other activities. 20 May 2012 P3 Insight Adherence to Traffic Rules Need of the Hour Medical researchers at SQU point out that contrary to the situation in many developed countries, the number of road traffic casualties in Oman is rising. The fatality rate in Oman has now reached 30 per 100,000 people and 127 per 100,000 vehicles and 111 per 100,000 licensed drivers, compared to 14 and 17 and 21 respectively for the USA. It should be appreciated that currently the Royal Oman Police is taking a lot of steps to reduce traffic fatalities, but we still more effort needs to be made. Prof. Lamk Al-Lamki, Head of the Department of Radiology & Molecular Imaging at Sultan Qaboos University said that it is very disheartening to drive on the roads of Oman and see children, unsecured by seat belts, freely moving about in cars and even jumping up and down. “We see mothers driving with their baby sitting on their lap. The baby is a good shield for the mother in case of an accident, but is that what the mother really wants? We need more vigorous education of such parents. “We need to work at eliminating such practices mainly through education, but when necessary, appropriate penalties” he added. According to Prof. Lamk, another major problem we are having in Oman is talking on the telephone while driving. “This is a cause of numerous accidents. Worse than talking on the phone is sending text messages while driving”, he said. Prof. Lamk observed that we definitely need more initiatives from the ROP, from non-governmental organizations and from all of us individual drivers who can play a dramatic role in reducing the death rate if we make more individual and concerted efforts. “To do this we need more road safety education for the public. We need more road safety education in the media both on TV and radio programmes than currently. We need them in both Arabic and English because many of the accidents that occur in Oman are caused by people who do not speak Arabic”, he added. Traumatic Brain Injury Each year at least 10 million people worldwide sustain Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and it is becoming increasingly clear that TBI is a leading cause of death and disability. TBI impacts individuals who are at their most productive in their respective society, namely, those who are under 45 years of age. Dr. Aziz Al-Naamani, who has conducted doctorate project to be submitted to the Auckland University, New Zealand, revealed that if one considers that this age group is at risk, then the situation in Oman is likely to be critical, as 88.6% of the Omani population are within this age group. Dr. Aziz Al-Naamani said that each year 300-400 per 100,000 people in Oman incur TBI. This amounts to approximately 17 to 23 persons per day sustaining TBI. In a survey conducted by Ministry of Health, 7 out of 17,791 individuals surveyed, 116 of them reported to have suffered ‘serious accidents’ in the preceding years. Interestingly, 60.8% of the reported accidents were due to transport and traffic accidents. Approximately 11% of those injured had 20 May 2012 P4 been admitted in hospital “for long time” and at least 1.2% of them were living with varying degrees of disabling conditions that manifest as physical handicap. Dr. Aziz Al-Naamani further said that little has been reported on the emotional, cognitive and behavioural functioning of the people living with disabilities. “Converging views strongly suggest that road traffic accidents are the main source of TBIs, estimated to cause between 42.1% and 95% of TBI in Oman. This statistic translates into a major cause of personal suffering for patients and their families and a loss of productivity for the nation”, he observed. “As the brain is one of the organs that is compromised with all the adverse consequences in term of personality change, reduced self-care and overall diminution of quality of life, the family members who are responsible for their injured relative’s care tend to be in an ‘emotional paradox’ when the life of a previously healthy individual is irrevocably altered. While the disabled person may not even realize anything has happened to him or her, the family may go through the burden and distress of ‘burying’ the person they previously knew and trying to develop a relationship with a new and less affable stranger”. Dr. Aziz Al-Naamani further revealed: “Emerging evidence suggest that the mortality from road traffic accidents in Gulf countries is higher than that in developing countries with similar car ownership ratios. The effect of accidents appears to be evenly distributed for both drivers and non-drivers. The majority of non-drivers are children. The number of fatalities per hundred thousand vehicles in Oman is nearly four times greater than that of UK. In real terms, Oman’s mortality for road crashes was 28 per 100,000 of the population by the end of 2005, which far exceeds the global average of 19 per 100,000. Mortality and morbidity from road traffic accidents in Oman continue to increase annually. Flying Coffins The situation of road traffic accidents is so serious that some commentators have dubbed motor vehicle ‘flying coffins’ and resultant death as “vehicular manslaughter”. Studies from the United Arab Emirates suggest that approximately 62% of road traffic accidents leading to fatalities are due to “carelessness” and “excessive speed”. Sharing the view of Prof. Lamk Al-Lamki, Dr. Aziz Al-Naamani said: “A study has shown that in Oman, children are generally either left unrestrained in a car without a seatbelt or incompliant to local traffic regulations”. In addition to the huge human and social cost of these injuries, the related economic cost is also substantial. It has been estimated that just acute in-patient medical care costs the Oman national coffers approximately 3.3 million Omani riyals a years. Mind Over Matter Types of Teachers By: Rihab Al-Maqrashi Teachers are the source of light and the candle of science. Teachers’ messages are considered as the most valuable and precious messages ever. Because their mission is not fixed to specific people; their mission is fixed to include everyone, the poor, the rich, the old, the youth, the healthy, and the sick. But there isn’t shred of doubt that these teachers can be classified according to their faithfulness and idleness. During our high school stages, we certainly saw teachers who were dedicated to their work. In fact, these kinds of teachers can also vary in terms of their flexibility. Some thorough teachers tend to deal with their innocent students with care and patience. For instance, my physics teacher used to teach us everything related to physics and to widen our knowledge with extra information that we may have had some curiosity about. Amazingly, we loved that subject, although it was a tough one. Indeed, she taught us all abstract theories with materialistic examples. She was more than welcoming to any question we may want to ask her. As a matter of fact, some teachers have plenty of creative methods that inspire students to fly into the sky. By contrast, my ex-physics teacher was like a nightmare for a couple of reasons. She would enter the class with the face of the devil; then she would throw her poor books roughly onto the table; then she would pick up a black marker; write the title; and finally start teaching. We poor students would be trembling in our chairs; waiting for her random choice of a misunderstandable and an indirect question. Our faces would blush, our eyes were full of fear, and our hearts would pulse just like a water bubbling in a silver jar! We had a really horrible lesson every cheerful noon. However, both teachers were loyal to their work and duty, but my ex-teacher NEVER knew how to be a friend to her students before she was a teacher. As it is said, you’ll never be obeyed until you listen and understand others. Overall, having a nice and a wise teacher always gives us a huge amount of motivation to do our best. Of course my effective writing teacher P.R. is the perfect model of the loyal, committed, and flexible teacher. To conclude, I believe it is important to indicate that teachers’ reactions are always observed by students in order to discover their real character. Students would love to have a wise, cultivated, and humorous teacher, so they can learn and work hard on that subject. It’s usually all about the teacher. Having an idle teacher is always a great piece of good luck that a student might have. This teacher will not teach much, will not give too many assignments, and will be absent once a week for being superficially busy! However, this kind of a teacher does exist, but never has respect. Oh yes… this teacher will set a short simple exam because he/she is dedicated to other projects, so he/she won’t have time to correct long answers. By contrast, an active and an “operative” teacher is a sign of a difficult exam and a sigh of a great feedback of knowledge. Certainly, this teacher deserves a bow of respect! Furthermore, this type of teachers’ will always be memorable and a model. In fact, he/she work hard by correcting notes, giving extra exercise, and providing advice. In conclusion, we everyday see teachers but the question is: How many teachers have left a footprint on our lives? In the end, we are all teachers and students simultaneously because we can always in this life, be good and effective mortals. But only if we decided to be! ******************************************************************** Though Ridiculous, I’m Proud of It! During my summer vacation, I worked in an institute as an English teacher. I was teaching girls in the 9-12 age group, the most cheerful stage of a girl’s life! However, one day I planned to teach my girls a moral lesson through storytelling. I thought it was a good idea for them, and indeed a new idea, in terms of their usual school classes. I came up with an unusual: I would turn myself into a 100 years old lady! I brought out a mat, so all my lovely girls could sit down. Then, I put on a liso (a piece of cloth. It’s a wide and a long scarf, worn by ladies to cover their trunk) with dark brown colors and scrambled shapes. Beside these, one of my sweethearts brought me a huge pair of black sunglasses that covered half my face. Finally there was a black spot. It wasn’t a beauty spot. It was an ugly spot! I made it with a black crayon! So, now our grandma was ready for storytelling. And then, oh yes, the pillow. I brought a pillow so grandma could sit on it and look down on her grandchildren. I still remember the feeling I had while sitting on that pillow… I felt like a queen on her throne. She squatted comfortably on the pillow while her grandchildren squatted on the floor around her in a semicircle. Finally, our artificial grandma was ready for the story. It was the fable about “The Red Hen”, who suffered while baking a piece of bread without any help from her friends. I was surprised that my little darlings participated and anticipated in an unexpected way. They were very happy to have a grandma in a classroom having fun! It was just like Big Mama. It was one of my most unforgettable classes. But what I cared more about was giving my little ones a piece of knowledge about life, to prepare them for facing their world. I felt proud of my students and of myself simultaneously. I felt proud of them that they still liked things related to the past – for example, the idea of their grandma. They still respected someone called a teacher and someone called “grandmother “. I planned all this to stimulate their curiosity about my fable. My student friends might think I was a bit silly performing like this in front of these young girls maybe because they imagined it would lower my status as a teacher. But that was certainly not the case. It’s never demeaning to do something a bit apparently silly or unusual as long its intention is valuable and pure. Finally, although I’m not an Education student, and know nothing about teaching methods or theories, I think I taught that class very well. As for the rest of my classes, I have NO IDEA if I did well or not because I did not receive any evaluation! 20 May 2012 P5 News Round Up SQU Students Earn Kudos in Egypt Contest SQU has won advanced positions in the Quran and Sunnah competition held on the sidelines of the 18th Scientific Miracles in Quran and Sunnah Forum. The meet was organised by South Valley University in Qina Governorate in Egypt. Younis bin Sulaiman Al Lamki stood first in the category of memorising half of the Quran recitation and Mohammed bin Harib Al Harrasi stood third in the same category. Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Yahiyaie stood fourth in the category of memorizing the whole of the Quran. In the category of memorising of the Hadith, Hilal bin Ali Al Nadabi and Said bin Ali Al Nadabi stood second. Mohammed bin Ahmad Ambu Saidi and Qais bin Zayed Al Jahdhami stood second in the cultural tournament. The competition included five categories. SQU Research Scientist Wins Innovation Award For his research work in 3D visualisation of buildings from airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data, Dr. B. Babu Madhavan, a Research Scientist at the Remote Sensing & GIS Centre of Sultan Qaboos University, has won ‘Geospatial World Innovation Award 2012. Dr. Madhavan received the award from Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of the Republic of India, during the Geospatial World Forum 2012 held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands from 23rd to the 27th April 2012. The research work which qualified Dr. Madhavan for this prestigious award was titled “A computer vision based approach for 3D building modelling of airborne laser scanner DSM data”. The project was done from 2000 to 2002 while he was working in Japan. It was initiated at Softopia Japan (http://www.softopia.or.jp/en/) a government IT organisation. The Softopia Japan Area is made up of venture business as well as large scale businesses that lead IT industry. Subsequently, his previous employer PASCO Corporation-Japan supported Dr. Madhavan to further the research till 2010. The research involved development of a computer vision based method for 3D building modelling by using stable planar regions extracted from low-spatial-resolution airborne laser scanner (ALS) data. Dr. Babu Madhavan acknowledged the guidance and support of Prof. Kazuhiko Yamamoto, Dept. of Information Science, Gifu University, Mr. Y. Niwa Project Director, Softopia Japan and Dr. Sasakawa, DirectorPASCO, in carrying out this project. “I also would like to thank my coresearchers, Dr. Caihua Wang, Fujifilm-Japan and Dr. Tanahashi, Gifu IT department for their support”, he said. The research came out with an international paper and one patent for that as well. 20 May 2012 P6 SQU Hosts Military and Security Officers As part of its Silver Jubilee celebrations, SQU hosted a number of commanders, senior officers and personnel at the Ministry of Defense, the Sultan’s Armed Forces (SAF), the Royal Guard of Oman (RGO), the Royal Oman Police (ROP) and other security apparatuses. HH Sayyida Dr. Mona bint Fahd al-Said, Assistant Vice Chancellor for External Cooperation delivered a speech where she welcomed the guests and gave them an overview of the University, its colleges and centers. She pointed out that more than 32,000 students have been graduated from SQU and that the University hosts now more than 15,000 students. She pointed out that the promotion of scientific research at SQU has earned it a local, regional and international status. The number of approved research projects at the University now stands at more than 1420. The strategic researches are funded by the His Majesty’s Research Trust Fund. After a speech by one of the SQU graduates, the guests toured the exhibition displaying different activities of colleges, centers and researches by the University Researchers Discuss Nutritional Challenges The Department of Food Sciences & Nutrition at the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, organized its annual workshop on “Nutritional Challenges in the Sultanate of Oman”. Speaking on the occasion, Prof. Anvar Kacimov, Dean of the College, said that following a healthy diet is important to maintain a healthy body and a healthy mind. He lauded the efforts of the Food Sciences and Nutrition Department in organizing this event on an annual basis which brings together food and nutrition researchers from different colleges at SQU, other government institutions, and the private sector. Dr. Najib Guizani, Head of the Department of Food Science & Nutrition, there is a greater consciousness in Oman today about the links between diet and health. People are increasingly aware of the impact of a bad diet on their health. This is happening in the contest of an ageing population, with the development of chronic diet related pathologies. In the first session, Eiman al Hinai, head of Nutrition & Dietetics Department, Al Nahda Hospital spoke about the importance of nutritional labelling on food products to make informed food choices. The workshop organizing committee was led by Dr. Mostafa Waly and Mohammed Al Ruzaiki of the Department of Food Sciences & Nutrition. From 557 in the year 1986, the number of students rose to 14722 in the academic year 2007-2008. This figure includes Diploma, Bachelors, Masters and PhD students. There has been gradual increase in the number of graduates as well; from 284 graduates in the year 1990 to 2422 in 2011. A Sun that never sets Straight Talk Dr. Gidon Windecker Dr. Gidon Windecker is the Program Manager at Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Regional Program Gulf States. He was in SQU recently as part of a training workshop on journalism organized in association with the Mass Communication Department of the College of Arts & Social Sciences and Oman Journalists Association. Horizon: How would you introduce Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and its activities in the GCC countries in general and Oman in particular? Dr. Gidon: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (“Stiftung” translates as “Foundation”) is a high-level German Think Tank with a focus on cooperation between German / European establishments, and institutions all over the world. We have 80 offices worldwide and we focus on issues of social and public concern. Our regional office in the Gulf was established in 2009 in Abu Dhabi. We are active in the GCC-States and Yemen. Our goal is to promote exchange and to create a better understanding between Germany and the Gulf Region. On the one hand, we offer German expertise in relevant fields, and on the other, we engage German actors in becoming more aware of the importance of the region. In our projects, we always work with local cooperation partners. In the case of the journalism training, we are happy to have found such engaged and committed partners as the Sultan Qaboos University and the Oman Journalists Association. Horizon: Promoting journalism is your major concern. Can you substantiate your view that journalism is one of the most important pillars of any civil society? Dr. Gidon: Promoting journalism is one of our concerns. Journalists bear a great responsibility in informing the citizens of a country about the crucial events at home and abroad. They have the task of investigating, of balanced reporting and of raising the awareness and stimulating the discussion about topics of public concern. The secret of journalism lies in the variety of reporting angles. Many different perspectives offer a more comprehensive insight and lead you closer to the core of what really happened. Horizon: Could you summarise the outcome of the journalistic skills workshop that you have conducted in SQU? Dr. Gidon: The workshop conducted is a basic seminar and has focused on the skills of news writing and reporting in English. The students have learned how to transform news into a story, how to investigate, how to verify their sources and how to write a balanced report. A strong focus was put on practice. The students should improve their skills by going out, interviewing people and collecting data. At the end of the course, every participant has completed an informative article in English. Horizon: Which are the major topics covered? Dr. Gidon: The topics covered in the course deal mainly with campus life. They range from parking problems, over introducing bicycles, to cheating in exams and student-teacher relations. Also, the concerns of students with special needs are covered and the question of volunteer work is raised. Horizon: In your view, what are the most important skills that a journalist should possess in order to thrive in the modern world characterised by rapid changes in information and communication technologies? Dr. Gidon: Besides making a story appealing and catching the reader’s attention, a journalist has to be very flexible and open-minded. He or she should never approach a story with a fixed idea in mind, but rather be open to listen and learn what other people have to say. Curiosity and a strong concern for public interest are crucial. In a world were news come and go over the internet and the social media, a journalist should always be aware of the responsibility he or she bears in informing society. A report has to be balanced, information has to be verified and a journalist has to give a voice to all sides involved. It is his or her ethic responsibility to find an objective approach without a personal agenda – this is what characterises professional journalism.