Prof. Herzig speaks on recent advances in molecular physiology and pharmacology of movement


Prof. Herzig speaks on recent advances in molecular
physiology and pharmacology of movement

From our correspondent

LAHORE: Prof. Joachim W. Herzig PhD, an eminent research scientist and educationist, Prof. of Physiology and Pathophysiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Mainz, Germany recently visited Pakistan for a couple of weeks. He was on some academic assignment at University of Karachi where he is Honorary Professor at HEJ-Research institute of Chemistry. He is also on the visiting faculty of Aga Khan University Karachi where he spent many years developing PhD programme. On an invitation from Prof.Major Gen. Mohammad Aslam, Vice Chancellor University of Health Sciences, Lahore, he flew into Lahore for a day and made a presentation at UHS on Recent advances in molecular physiology and pharmacology of movement which was largely attended by the faculty members of UHS as well as postgraduate students.

Prof. Joachim W. Herzig an eminent research scientist from Germany recently visited UHS Lahore.
Group photograph taken on the occasion shows him and Prof. Major Gen. M. Aslam Vice Chancellor
University of Health Sciences photographed along with the postgraduate students.

In his presentation Prof. Herzig discussed in detail the molecular movement, historical aspects, muscle functions, excitation contraction coupling, insect flight muscle, molecular mechanics and engetics. Talking about historical aspects of muscle contraction Prof. Herzig said that lungs inhale spirit of life to heart, heart makes spirit of soul to brain, brain stores spirit of soul, then brain blows spirit to soul to muscle and it increase volume contraction. He also referred to the experimental verification more than two thousand years ago. He then discussed Sir William Croom’s experiment in 1664 which showed that increase in volume leads to contraction and decrease in volume leads to relaxation. He advised the participants to challenge the ideas. Never think that your supervisor is always right. Never believe, trust the authority even if it is your own supervisor. We need to promote the culture of questioning in Pakistan, he remarked.
Discussing the Swammerdam’s experiment, Prof. Herzig said that muscle contraction is an isovolumetric process in which shape changes but not the volume. In 1963 Sir Andrew Huxley got Nobel Prize for his discovery, structure of cross striated muscle. He also discussed sliding filament mechanism, excitation contraction coupling. He then referred to Galvani’s 1789 experiment and said that in high pitch humming the source of sound is wings movement by the mosquitoes. He then talked about structure of skinned fiber. Force, he said, depends on calcium. There is delayed relaxation after release. Speaking about stretch and release cycle, he said, delayed release results in delayed relaxation. He then spoke about the quick stretch experiment, from basic sciences to clinical orientation. Heart failure, he said, is due to lack of calcium. What we need here is not more calcium but calcium sensitivity. In order to increase calcium sensitivity, calcium sensitizing agents are used. He also discussed in detail the calcium sensitivity of cardiac force, mechanism of action of calcium sensitizers and said that any activity costs energy. It is just like lower engine speed will result in lower fuel consumption. Insects, Prof. Herzig stated fly by stretch activation. Similarly there is also stretch activation in heart. One should always prevent over stretching of heart.

Meet the Professor Session

Later on an opportunity was provided to the postgraduate students and young researches to meet Prof. Herzig to seek his advice on the problems they were facing or difficulties in research besides their professional career. This interactive session proved quite useful for the participants. Prof. Herzig told them that they had got admission to a nice university which is destined to achieve greater heights. It is an excellent facility and new facilities will make the university grow. Many new programmes in medical sciences are coming up and you should set the standards. In Pakistan, usually teachers do not encourage the students to ask questions; hence we need to promote the culture of asking questions.
Some of the participants referred to lack of funding for undertaking research. At this Prof. Herzig opined that it is the duty of the supervisor to start a project. Students cannot arrange funds at their own. It is a team work. It is difficult but if you can show some first class publication, it will make the task easy. Good professional scientists can raise funds. Universities in the developed world, Prof. Herzig stated, may not encourage scientists from Muslim countries due to the current prevailing political situation. However, it is up to the universities in developing countries to provide funds for starting a project. It is also important that one should know how to write a research grant proposal.
Participating in the discussion Prof. Major Gen. Aslam VC UHS said that one should start writing the synopsis during the first six months while doing M. Phil and during the first year while doing PhD. Do not keep it pending for the last year. Submit application for funding to donor agencies. Most often research grant will be ready by the time you will be ready to conduct research. Prof. Herzig was of the view that it is up to the postgraduate students to stimulate their professors, supervisors. They are too busy and they have to be reminded about these things from time to time. It was also pointed out that sometimes one cannot get the full grant from one source and one has to look for different sources. Prof. Aslam said that if you attend some workshop, the university will pay the registration fee and incase you are attending a conference and the registration fee is waived of by the organizers, these are all plus points. Prof. Herzig said that eminent scientists are flooded with requests. Scientists from Muslim countries will have problems getting in contact with research scientists in the developed world. You need to improve your networking. At times these scientists may not respond to your e mails. Some of them may be even prejudiced against you. Some people may not be interested as your project may not be thrilling and interesting for them. Continuing Prof. Herzig said that priority is given to those who already have got some funding which is considered a plus point. Try to improve your networking which will help you. It is quite possible that you may get some part funding by the university, partly you are sponsored by the conference organizers who waive your registration fee and you might get some part funding from some other donor agency.
Responding to question from a postgraduate working in chemical pathology, Prof.Herzig said you must believe in yourself. There may be only a few chemical pathologists in Pakistan. Go ahead and do PhD in this field and you will have a bright future. He had similar advice to a young nursing student who said that she was thinking of changing her profession as nursing is not liked by her relatives. She was told that there is a great potential in the field of nursing as well. You can do PhD in nursing and then end up as a respected faculty member. Whatever profession you have chosen, you should work with devotion, dedication and sincerity to achieve success. There is no short cut. Laboratory medicine in particular, Prof. Herzig said was becoming more and more important and there is a great potential in this field.
Earlier in his welcome address Prof. Major Gen. Aslam thanked Prof.Herzig for sparing some of his precious time to visit UHS for a day and talk to the faculty and postgraduate students. Prof. Herzig, he said, has made tremendous contribution in developing PhD programme and development of curriculum when he was working at Aga Khan University. He has over hundred publications to his credit and has served as Vice President of the University Presidents Association in Germany from 2006-2008. He was Professor and Chairman, Dept.of Physiology and Pharmacology at the Aga Khan University from 1996-2000 where he helped build up a PhD programme and also introduced US American model of Problem Based Curriculum. He is a multifaceted personality who apart from being associated with various educational institutions has also served in Swiss Pharma industry from 1980-1996 as Project Leader and Research Executive. He has also served as Prof. and Chairman of Dept. of Physiological Sciences at University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.

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