Saturday, August 25, 2012

Congratulations to Shadab Rasool, But We Have A Few Questions, Please

Congratulations to Shadab Rasool, But We Have A Few Questions, Please

These days, any news from Pakistan almost invariably involves body counts.  In the current atmosphere of despair even the tiniest of good news from that godforsaken country is celebrated and cherished.  With that appetite for positive news from Pakistan, the report of a Pakistani high-schooler from Khairpur, Shadab Rasool, winning a silver medal in a science fair in New York, was received with pride.  As always, the Pakistani media had some terrible reporting of the news and it was hard to tell what new technology was invented by Shadab Rasool.  The best piece—with some explanation of Rasool’s technology—was written by Mithal Khuhro and Sameer Mandhoro, for the Express Tribune.
But even Khuhro and Mandhoro’s report relied too much on the information obtained from Shadab Rasool himself.  So we decided to do our own investigative journalism and get to further details.  As it normally happens the investigation did provide more details, but it also generated a few questions.  Here are the questions and we hope someone would be able to answer them for everyone’s benefit.

Is Shadab Rasool also known as Usama Khan?  [We find Usama Khan’s name announced here: 00:36, at the Genius Olympiad award ceremony.]  Also, at, which is a list of the finalist teams (248 out of 657 participating teams), Team 609, for the project title ‘Get the pollutants out: Removal of harmful pollutants from industrial waste water by tea waste,’ lists Usama Khan and K. Baloch as the team members.  [A second team from Pakistan, Team 174, for the project title ‘Detoxification of heavy metal contaminated soils by using a new phytoremediation method’, had Abdul Daim and Wajid Waheed as the two team members.  That team won the ‘Honorable Mention’ award.  See that team at 14:00, in the video at]

In this TV report,
the reporter claims the ‘US Government’ has given a scholarship of $250,000 to Shadab Rasool.  First, Genius Olympiad, is organized by the State University of New York at Oswego and the Terra Science and Education Foundation, and NOT by the ‘US Government.’  Secondly, it does not appear any cash award is given in this high school project competition.
[In fact, contestants have to bear their own travel expenses, to reach to the contest in New York.]

And lastly, we would like to review Shadab Rasool’s project in further detail to understand the originality of his technology.  [The Internet seems to be dripping with ‘tea waste’ technologies invented to fight industrial pollution.  For example, see this 2010 paper

by the Chinese researchers, on ‘Biosorption of heavy metals from solution by tea waste.’]

Photo, courtesy of

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