The Last Lecture of Dr. A.K.M.A. Quader

K. M. Tanvir Ahmmed



Expecting something out of the ordinary, I attended the last lecture delivered by Dr. A.K.M.A. Quader. My expectation fulfilled, I was mesmerized and I enjoyed every bit of the lecture! Public lectures titled, “Last Lecture”, are practiced in many renowned international universities. Usually comprising of subject matters well outside the academic’s research area, the lecture is delivered to the public as if it was the last.

The tradition of last lectures is very recent in Bangladeshi universities. Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) is initiating to organize such opportunity for senior teachers and Dr. Quader’s one is the first to deliver one as such. So, when he was suggested to deliver a lecture commemorating his retirement, it created hype among his peers, current and ex-students. The Last Lecture of Dr. Quader’s was attended by a large number of audiences. On June 18th, 2011 the Council Building of BUET was crowded with faculty members and colleagues from different departments including his own, the Department of Chemical Engineering, students, engineering professionals and peers from the civil society.

Dr. A.K.M.A. Quader

Dr. Quader retired from the Department of Chemical Engineering, BUET on June 30, 2011. He joined the department as an Assistant Professor in 1973, and since then he has devoted himself as an academic and in many occasions as a professional chemical engineer.

Dr. Quader’s last lecture was divided into several sections. It was as if he was narrating his autobiography in front of the audience. It was interesting how Dr. Quader presented his life with an engineering perspective in his lecture. He represented his lifelong achievements and experiences on a log-log plot. He emphasized on his childhood and discussed his ambitions and goals. He shared his emotions and also the bittersweet memories with the audience.

Of the many things that Dr. Quader shared with the people at the lecture, it was interesting to learn that teaching was never an agenda in his early life. Rather, he aspired to be an engineer. After graduation, Dr. Quader joined the then Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (now Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR)). After completing his PhD from University of Bradford, UK he rejoined the BCSIR in 1972, in spite of receiving an offer at the University of Bradford as lecturer. After working at BCSIR for a year, he resigned and joined the Department of Chemical Engineering, BUET. What changed his mind to join the department was unanswered in his lecture. And, though he enjoyed what he did, he still thinks that it was a wrong decision in Today’s context of Bangladesh.

It was an exciting start of Dr. Quader’s career at BCSIR, where he could not only apply his own talent but also the knowledge he gained thus far, which he always wanted. There, he worked on process development at the pilot plant scale. His PhD work was also on experimental research. For his PhD project, he built a big and complicated experimental rig which was a good learning experience for him. To gain real life engineering experiences, he often visited industries and establishments. He believed that to be a successful engineer, it is important to use one’s common sense along with the underlying principles of science and engineering.

As a BUET faculty he always assigned experimental works including designing, building and operating engineering projects to his supervisees. In his last lecture he acknowledged his students and mentioned that when it came to learning, he learned a lot from them while teaching in the classes and supervising design and thesis projects.

In my years of working with Dr. Quader as a student and later as a junior colleague I got a notion that his engineering contributions in the process industries in Bangladesh are highly appreciated. And by listening to his lecture, my notion was reconfirmed. He participated in a number of trouble-shooting events, consultancies and managerial tasks in different chemical and allied industries. One of his decision making events was with Toyo Engineering Corporation, which was the General Contractor for building a large capacity fertilizer industry in Bangladesh. His decision of changing Toyo’s proposed design saved a significant amount of foreign currency of the country and also ensured safety of the plant.

In his lecture, Dr. Quader brought up a number of thought evoking issues. He marked the challenges of chemical engineering in Bangladesh and made comments and suggestions to overcome those. He expressed his satisfaction with the young graduates, who he believes are full of new ideas and have the ability to learn from their failures.

Dr. Quader, who has achieved many successes throughout his career, is sure to have many proud moments, and in his ‘Last Lecture’, he shared them with the audience. According to him, the independence of Bangladesh is the best moment of his life. He actively participated in different organizations of Bangladesh Liberation Movement while staying in UK. At one point his scholarship was terminated by the request of the then Pakistani government for his participation in these organizations. But, the scholarship was reinstated by his active communications with British MPs.

Dr. Quader concluded his lecture with votes of thanks and acknowledgments. He remembered his parents and his family’s contribution towards his success. He thanked his mentors and friends. Finally, he thanked all of those who had worked with him- colleagues, students and staff members.

As an academician and an engineer, Dr. Quader has oared the concept of chemical engineering design for decades. He always tells students: “Fight to finish, never give up or give in”. Undoubtedly, Dr. Quader is a true fighter, who has inspired hundreds of his followers and well-wishers. Dr. A.K.M.A Quader, you will be greatly missed!

Moments from Dr. Quader’s ‘Last Lecture’.

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