by Polly Bennett. Published: 16 December 2011

In another time Attiq would have been the village wise man. Our conversation began, quite logically, with an account of his education and career in chip design. But it soon took an unexpected turn that revealed his deeply philosophical nature. Attiq has an awareness and concern for the suffering of people and society that is rare to find so genuinely in people. If you met him in downtown Geneva you might expect that he works for the UN or the Red Cross. But no. He works here, getting his hands dirty as an electronics engineer.

Attiq designs and maintains many of the readout control units of ALICE’s detectors. “I came here in 2006 as a member of the Time Projection Chamber (TPC) readout electronics team, and also helped to design the readout control units used by the EmCal, PHOS and FMD detectors. Now I work on their maintenance and further development.”

Attiq Ur Rehman

Attiq Ur Rehman

Although originally from Faisalabab in the state of Punjab, Pakistan, Attiq has been educated across the world. His Bsc was from the University of Technology in Johor Bahru in Malaysia and his Msc was from The Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. This is an eclectic mix, but Attiq explains, “In Pakistan you might not finish your degree in 3 or 4 years and so my father decided I should go to university outside Pakistan. Also, I was quite vocal in student politics at high school and my father feared I would end up with a political career. He didn’t consider this a good profession. Malaysia is only a 6 or 7 hour flight from Pakistan so it was ideal compared to Japan or the US.”

Malaysia turned out to be a beautiful place for Attiq. “For the first few years I was always concentrating on my studies. But after a while I didn’t feel such pressure and I would go hiking, exploring waterfalls and especially the rain forest. I love the wild, heavy rain you get there. The only tough thing was the humidity.” However, academically it was also a tremendously steep learning curve. “My entire instruction was in Malay so I had to learn the language. At high school I spoke English and suddenly studying maths, physics and chemistry in Malay was very strange. Sometimes I got really stuck on a technical concept because of the translation rather than the science. My grades for the first two years were quite bad but in my last two, when I could understand Malay, they improved.”

After this, Attiq spent some time working in Pakistan before his Msc in Sweden. This was followed by work in England and Switzerland before he was hired as a Marie Curie research fellow at CERN.” A standard week for Attiq involves checking and debugging electronics problems, and he recently started work on his PhD. “I’m looking further at the design and optimisation of TPC readout electronics.”

Attiq does not seem the type of person to jump about in his seat when he gets excited but at the mention of readout electronics and chip design he starts to shine. “When I started to use a computer I wasn’t interested in programming or software. I wanted to see what bit was carrying out all these jobs. Well that’s the processor, and I wanted to design them. At university my hobby was to work with micro controllers. You can customise them, programme them and get them to work. I made small calculators and controls for switching lights on and off. With this kind of design you get to see the whole system. To be part of the design team for these kinds of things never makes me feel tired. It’s not work because I love it, and if you enjoy your daily job then you never have to work a single day.”

Attiq’s other love is literature. “I’m not much of an outdoors person. What I do like, is to study – literature or sociology or anything to do with human beings.” He becomes very poetic when describing this fascination. He likes to read while watching the rain, especially in the Malaysia rain forest. “Not heavy rain but nice rain, with light, drizzling sounds. Just watching the rain is good for staying calm. You can take a break from your book and look outside to see the rain. When I read I’m totally quiet and like no other sounds, except the rain.” This image seems to reflect his choice of reading material. “It depends on my mood but immediately what I think of when people ask me is poetry. I don’t think of poetry as ‘kinds’, it’s just appealing words that come close to the reality of life. They are all about life. I love romantic and revolutionary poetry, so I love Wordsworth and Mark Twain. Wordsworth especially gives me peace and calm. I just read the words and these feelings descend on me. Basically I like anything about humans and the search for spiritual identity.”

It is at this point that Attiq’s social concern becomes apparent. “I get carried away by news or my surroundings. If I need to get away from those feelings I write a poem or story in a way that can deliver or retain the essence of the news.” Attiq explains that this helps him to remember the message, as so often our memory of world events is transient. “People’s misery and suffering deserves more attention.” I ask if he is trying to immortalise the misery. “Not immortalise. I’m just trying to put things in a different way that might be more effective in making people remember.”

Comments

grettings

I know you a little and I can say that you, Attiq, are one of a kind. Very sensitive, gentle and tender soul. May the Lord Bless you in all ways. greetings.

All the best & be the best...

All the best & be the best... You're one of my closest friend during studying at UTM Skudai JB. You have made a great journey in engineering... Be proud of your achievement & do not stop...

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."
Henry David Thoreau

salute

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