Dr. Manza Alam, a Pakistani astrophysicist, was part of the Hubble and James Webb space telescope missions. Dr. Manza, who has passed a major milestone in her international work with the hijab, is an example.
There is no research in Pakistan’s educational institutions on astronomy, especially astrophysics. But the talented youth of Pakistan perform valuable services and achievements in educational and research institutions around the world. One of these scientists is Dr. Manza Alam, who received his doctorate in astrophysics from Harvard University. She has been part of missions such as Hubble and the James Webb Telescope. Dr. Manza is an avid traveler and National Geographic Young Explorer.
Who is Dr. Manza Alam?
Dr. Manza’s parents belong to Pakistan and India. He spent his childhood in New York. Dr. Manzah told Deutsche Welle that the role of parents is very important in his work. His first introduction to astrophysics came at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he learned to ask questions and find answers through research. She says that what fascinates her the most about astrophysics is finding answers to questions about any missing data.
Dr. Manzah graduated from Connie Hunter College in Astronomy and Physics in 2016 and completed his PhD in the same field from Harvard University. The focus of his thesis is the analysis of data from the Hubble Telescope mission, which collects and classifies important data about the solar system and other planets.
What does Dr. Manza Alam’s research focus on?
Dr. Manzah has been associated with the Carnegie Earth and Planet Observatory as a post-doctoral fellow since 2021, where his research has focused on Earth-like planets, where important ingredients for the development of life such as oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, water, etc. exist. Such planets are called “exoplanets” in scientific terms, and the search for them is still an important part of the mission of the James Webb Space Telescope.
Dr. Manza told DW that at the Carnegie Earth and Planet Observatory, she analyzed data from the James Webb Space Telescope and other large space telescopes. In research with her team, she tries to find out how information from the atmosphere of planets can provide information about their past history and signs of life.
What is the special information from the James Webb telescope?
Dr. Manza Alam told Deutsche Welle that with the Hubble telescope, scientists can see optical or only night light, while the James Webb telescope can easily detect infrared light. From June 2022, data from the James Webb telescope began to come in, which surprised scientists because it was different from the theoretical model they had previously presented.
Dr. Manza explained that she is the primary data analyst and is analyzing new data from the James Web camera. During this time, he obtained important information about the photochemistry of some planets. The atmosphere of these planets consists of molecules of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. According to Dr. Manza, “We expect even more amazing discoveries from the James Webb telescope in the future.”
How long will it take to discover signs of life on the planet?
Dr. Manza Alam told Deutsche Welle that the planet that is the focus of his research is now called “hot Jupiter” in astronomical terms. Although they are not very useful in finding life on other planets, they help in understanding the physical and chemical properties of the planetary environment.
According to Dr. Manzah, rocky planets like Earth are more important in finding life on other planets. We expect the presence of “biological signatures” such as oxygen, ozone, methane, carbon dioxide and water on these planets, which may be the origin of life on Earth. She further explained that even if scientists find these biological signatures on planets, they still cannot tell for sure whether the planet in question is suitable for the development of life.
Does the hijab cause problems at work?
Dr. Manza Alam further told Deutsche Welle that the number of women in astronomy research is negligible. She was always proud to be one of the few Guinean women working in astronomy. According to Dr. Manzah, she often faces negative attitudes because of the hijab. A respected American professor once tried to harass her when she attended a seminar. About astronomy.
Dr. Manza said women face harassment or gender discrimination in the workplace and it is important to speak out against those responsible instead of remaining silent. Dr. Manza is very active in this matter and wants women to be fully aware of the challenges related to gender discrimination. She wants more women from South Asia in this field, where she usually organizes talks and lectures.