THE University of Karachi has a teaching and research institute known as the Centre of Excellence in Marine Biology (CEMB) to award its students MPhil and PhD degrees in the academic discipline. The institute is fast losing its direction, and needs remedial steps.

The CEMB is an institute of the federal government established at the university under an act of parliament. In the 50 years or so, the institute has awarded numerous MPhil and PhD degrees to its students through coursework and research. Courses were also organised by this centre for students in other Asian countries.

The CEMB got world recognition when in 1979 a well-known Russian professor of marine biology, Prof Mileykovskiy, wrote an article about the institute in the Russian research journal Oceanology (vol. 19, no 5, 1979). He declared that the institute is an advanced marine biology centre in Pakistan. According to him, colleagues of the institute had published about 100 scientific papers, many of them in leading foreign journals of the United States, England, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and several other countries.

For example, the work of the director of the institute on the cytogenetics of oysters and their speciation (Adv. Mar.Biol. London 13, 1975) was mentioned by him. Prof Mileykovskiy had referred to the book Advances in Marine Biology which was edited by two of the most renowned marine biologists of Britain; Sir Frederick Russell and Sir Maurice Yonge.

About the article written in that book by the CEMB director, American professor Dr Gordon Gunter of Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Mississippi, wrote to the director thus: “I read your very interesting paper on speciation of living oysters sometimes ago, and I keep coming back to it now and then.”

Top marine biologists of three of the most scientifically advanced countries had hailed the performance of the CEMB. Prof Mileykovskiy also pointed out that Soviet scientific literature is not well known to the institute’s personnel, but they actively respond to publications by Soviet authors that happen to be in English ad published in international journals.

He also pointed out that CEMB did not have its own research ship. From my side, I would like to point out that being a maritime state, Pakistan should invest as much as it can in the CEMB to attract foreign students for MPhil and PhD degrees.

This institute is now known all over the world. It is sad to remind the authorities that this pearl of an institute has been kept without a permanent director and is being run currently by faculty members of the university who have never had anything to do with marine biology.

Prof (Dr) Muzammil Ahmed
Former CEMB director
Karachi

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2021

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