The journey of a thousand miles begins…



Hi, everyone!!!

Most of you have been known to me as we had met in first summer school from June 26-30, 2017, Wageningen, The Netherlands. It also might be possible that some of you guys forgot about me, in case, I’m introducing myself once again. I am Raheel Ahmad and recruited as an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) on Foodsmartphone project, “DNA-addressable arrays for multiplex ligand binding assays with optical smartphone read out” at Nanobiotechnology for Diagnostics (Nb4D) research group, Spanish Research Council (CSIC), Barcelona, Spain. I can’t give more detail about my project at this moment because I’m still looking forward to the approval of my visa. Klaudia Kopper is also working in the same research group and I hope, we will spend a good time there. Moreover, I would like to say gratitude to my project director (Prof. Pilar Marco), promotion manager (Dr. Miriam Corredor), and project co-director (Dr. Pablo Salvador) to help me out in every step from my selection to onwards.

My journey of professional education is started from Pakistan and I don’t know when and where it comes to end.  I did my BS (Honours) in Chemical Engineering (Process Engineering) from one of the leading engineering university of Pakistan (University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Lahore. My thesis was on hydrogen energy production from coal. My thesis supervisor asked me that I should have to consider for MS research-based fellowship here in Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), South Korea. I never had imagined that I would have been succeeded to get this highly competitive fellowship to pursue my master’s degree. I was selected at BioNano health guard research center, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering as a graduate research assistant for two years (2014-2016).  The task given to me was to develop a biosensor for ultrasensitive detection of biomolecules. I remained in shock for a time because I never read about DNA and protein before in my life. The joke came into mind which I listened in my college life, I was thinking, my situation would be like this after two years,

“A guy is sitting at home when he hears a knock at the door. He opens the door and sees a snail on the porch. He picks up the snail and throws it as far as he can. Three years later, there’s a knock on the door. He opens it and sees the same snail. The snail says, what was that all about”.

I started to take the courses relevant to biosensors and after the passage of time, my interest has been developed in the biosensor field, in fact, fallen in love. Now, I will live forever with my love (biosensor).  Moreover, It was a quite nice experience to be a part of the amazing research group (H-Guard), where people cares each other and arranged outdoor activities together. Currently, I’m working as a research scientist at center for flow control, Department of Mechanical Engineering, KAIST. Here, I’m working on microfluidics and its application in biotechnology for point-of-care diagnostics.

Graduation day
Commencement Day at KAIST, South Korea
Lab’s Outdoor Activity, H-Guard Research Center (left), Center for Flow Control (right)

Here, I would like to mention about my hometown, Pakistan. Pakistan is full of breathtaking locations which will make you fall in love with this country all over again. If you are a tourist or love traveling then you must compile a list of places you plan to visit.

Naltar valley is famous for its colorful lakes, it is situated at a drive of 2.5 hours from Gilgit. Covered with pine trees, this valley doesn’t seem to be a part of this world.

Naltar Valley
A Stunning view of Naltar Valley

Neelum Valley is one of the most beautiful valleys of Azad Kashmir, and it hosts several brooks, freshwater streams, forests, lush green mountains, and a river. Here, you see cataracts falling down the mountains; their milky-white waters flowing over the roads and splashing against the rocks, before commingling with the muddy waters of River Neelum.

Neelum Valley
Pakistan’s Blue Gem: Neelum Valley

White Palace Marghazar is the only breathtaking location in the Swat district that’s situated at a distance of around 12 km from the city of Mingora. Not only do tourists visit Marghazar for its natural beauty and pleasant weather but also to visit the historic White Palace built in 1941 during the era of Swat state.

White Palace Swat
Swat’s White Palace: Cut from the Same Stone as the Taj Mahal, which is one of the Wonders of the world

Usually, I called South Korea as my second homeland. Over 70% of the land is mountainous with the eastern regions consisting of mainly rugged mountain ranges and deep valleys. Many people enjoy hiking in the foothills and mountains. Most of the larger rivers and forests are located in the west. The coastline is dotted with bays and it has some of the highest tides in the world. The eastern coastline has many sandy beaches, while the western side consists mainly of mud flats and rocky shores. Here, I would like to share stupendous places of South Korea which I have visited.

Insa-dong is located in the heart of the capital city Seoul, is where old and new coexist. The main street of Insa-dong is lined with alleys both big and small full of interesting shops, galleries, traditional restaurants, teahouses, and cafes.

Gyeongbokgung Palace is Korea’s most representative royal palace, showcasing the beautiful architectural traditions of Korea. The palace served as housing for the king as well as a spacious plaza for dealing with public affairs. It also presents a beautiful harmony with nature, including gardens and ponds which make a great backdrop for pictures to take home.

Insa-dong (left), Gyeongbokgung Palace by night (right)

N Seoul Tower is an all-time favorite tourist attraction and has become a symbol of Seoul. Its view becomes even more spectacular when seen after sunset, as it sits atop Namsan Mountain, offering a panoramic view of the city. The tower not only has the best view in town but is also equipped with various subsidiary facilities where visitors can shop and dine, suited for a unique trip both day and night. 

N-seoul tower
Cherry Blossoms at N Seoul Tower

Daecheongbong Peak is the highest peak in Seoraksan National Park and the third highest peak in Korea following Hallasan Mountain (1,950 meters) and Jirisan Mountain (1,915 meters). It marks the point where Nae-Serok (inner Serok) meets Oe-Serok (outer Serok). Due to irregular climate and low temperatures, it is home to various stunted high mountain plants and about 50 rare plants, as well as a variety of wild birds. From Daecheongbong Peak you can view the fascinating landscape of Seoraksan Mountain in all four directions. 

The most popular hiking trail to Daecheongbong Peak 

The most popular hiking trail to Daecheongbong Peak starts from Sogongwon and passes the Biseondae and Hoeungak Pavilions. From Daecheongbong Peak, the trail continues to Seorak Waterfalls and Osaek Mineral Spring. The one-way span is about 16 kilometers and takes about 11 hours and 20 minutes.

I think it’s pretty enough for my first blog. I’m very inquisitive to see my new group members and the astonishing beauty of Barcelona, as Kaludia mentioned in her blog.

 Nanobiotechnology for Diagnostics (Nb4D) Research Group Members

In my next blog, I would be pleased to share my experience about Spain and write in detail about my project.

Sincerely, Raheel

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