People’s profiles – Qasid Ahmad
Qasid Ahmad was born in Pakistan and is an Ahmadi-Muslim (i.e. member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community). Due to their religion, Ahmad’s family fled from Pakistan and sought asylum in Germany, where they eventually settled near Karlsruhe.
Qasid Ahmad grew up in Germany and after graduating from high school, he studied Applied Geosciences at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. After completing his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Karlsruhe, he enrolled for a PhD position at the University of Bern, Switzerland. There he focuses on element cycling at subduction zones and other tectonic settings using stable metal isotopes.
What field do you currently work in and what is the job title of your current position?
I am a PhD student working in the field of isotope geochemistry funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. I work in the Isotope Geology research group at the Institute of Geological Sciences, University of Bern.
Describe your qualifications and career path to date, and any job hunting or networking tips you would like to pass on to others. In what ways do you consider yourself to be privileged?
My career/study path is quite straightforward. As my PhD position is my first full-time job, I can only give limited job hunting or networking tips. Being member of scientific societies and going to on-site conferences is highly beneficial to network especially for students. However, there were not many possibilities to meet at on-site conferences during the pandemic, which is especially unfortunate for students that have no big network. For job hunting tips, I can suggest to other students that being part of mailing lists of specific scientific societies is helpful, especially for job postings that are difficult/not to find elsewhere online. I consider myself as privileged and I am grateful that I can/could study and work in free and safe countries. Another privilege I appreciate is that I could study and attend already some conferences before the SARS-COV-2 outbreak.
What aspects of your ethnic and cultural background are important to you personally?
Being a Muslim is especially important to me. I strongly believe that religion and science do not contradict each other.
How would you describe your gender identity and / or sexual identity?
I am a cisgender straight man.
If you were not presently in your current job, what alternative career might you have?
If I would not be at my present job, I probably would have chosen another PhD position in geochemistry elsewhere. If I needed to choose another subject to study outside of natural sciences, I would likely study economics.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job and what do you like most about your working environment?
I personally like the degree of freedom I have as a PhD student in my research project, while still having a good guidance by my supervisors. Working with new samples or isotope systems as side-projects is especially exciting, allowing me to learn something new. Furthermore, the open-door policy at our institute provides a good basis for discussing research and potential collaborations.
Describe a typical day at work. What is your level of overall satisfaction in your current job?
My workdays are quite diverse, so there is no “typical day” at work. It is a mixture of my own research (preparation of samples in the clean lab, measuring these samples with the mass spectrometer, or working in the office), assisting in teaching or other students in the lab, and other duties (e.g. representative duties on faculty level). Daily coffee breaks with colleagues are important to me, as they balance social and scientific aspects of my workday. I am overall satisfied with my current job.
If your work involves teaching and training others, what do consider are the highlights?
Apart from teaching assistance, training other students in the lab or at the mass spectrometer is a highlight, as I can gain first supervision/mentoring experience that is important for an academic career.
How friendly is your current position and how neutral are your peers to your persisting or transient personal circumstances?
I like that I have the flexibility in my working hours. I think that is quite common for PhD positions. I can, e.g., leave in the afternoon for the Friday prayer. In addition, I like to take most of my holidays during Ramadhan instead of during summer, which is also possible at my work.
Given the COVID-19 crisis of 2020-2021, how did you manage your work during this time and in what ways do you feel your productivity and outputs were enhanced or diminished?
During the pandemic, our institute was partly closed and we had limited access to the labs. This lead to delays in data generation, however, we have found suitable ways to better plan and distribute lab-time that we still use now even without any restrictions anymore.
Moreover, mandatory home office or limited access to the office (max. 1 person at a time) also affected my output, as I am most productive in the office. To limit this negative impact, my colleagues and I scheduled our office hours online and I came to the institute preferably at later hours.
Is there a key event, experience, or person that has particularly inspired and empowered you? Do you have a favourite moment in your career?
My parents in particular inspire and empower me because their sacrifice and hard work to this day ensured that their families and children have a better future.
We are deeply grateful to Qasid for this contribution.
Editorial handling was by EAG DEI Committee members Amy Riches, Jabrane Labidi, and Susan Little.