Skip to main content

How a physics graduate student helped get Pakistan's president to drop by Weill Cornell

How did a Cornell student, an alumnus and a Binghamton neurosurgeon entice President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to drop by Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC)?

First of all, they had connections -- and a solid understanding of protocol. And then they had the fact that Sanford Weill, chairman of the WCMC Board of Overseers, was a major contributor to relief efforts after Pakistan's devastating earthquake in 2005.

With those factors on their side, the members of the Musharraf Welcome Committee -- Wasif Syed, a graduate student in applied and engineering physics; Omer Bajwa, an alumnus in Near Eastern studies; and Dr. Saeed Bajwa, Omer's father -- asked Cornell senior administrators for help.

They pointed out that Cornell, with its long tradition of social and political activism, has a responsibility to offer students access to world leaders.

"Undoubtedly future generations of global leaders will arise from Cornell students," said Syed. "And, therefore, it is imperative that they have accessibility to current heads of state, such as President Musharraf, to engage in intellectual discourse on issues that affect the lives of global citizens."

As a scientist, Syed added, he feels especially responsible for being a part of that discourse.

"There is as much politics in physics as physics in physics," he said. "Scientists in general have a civic responsibility. You have to have the necessary conditions to be able to engage in discourse in any society."

Syed added: "That's one of the reasons I came to Cornell. Science affects people's lives. As a scientist you have to understand that there are political ramifications to your actions. You have to be aware of the politics. That's what Cornell teaches. That's what I came here to learn."

Media Contact

Media Relations Office