“…back in 2004, in otherwise quiet winter midnight, I suddenly heard a voice, “You look worried”. As a reflex, looked around to find no one; mildly shaken, it took a few seconds to settle that the code finally worked; it read my facial expression. Worried, indeed I was. I had been coding on my makeshift computer following a year of failures, each of which nearly made me give up and yet strengthened my resolve. This was a part of an elaborate project, a robot that could analyze facial expressions and converse intelligently”, recalls Diwaker.
“There is no rational explanation, why a high school student would bunk school, halt pursuing further studies to pursue an obsession that is neither appreciated by the school system nor by ambitious parents. But I just had to do it”, quips Diwaker.
Born and schooled in Janakpur, the Janakpur boy, grew up with an intense curiosity about how things work. He loved to read and build things. “Books were visual adventures. Most of the things I built had no ingenuity. I learned them from a library of books and most of the time ignorant to the beauty of underlying mechanism”, says Diwaker. Sundial, anti-matter propulsion, controlled nuclear explosion based propulsion systems were some of his early “original” ideas, soon to realize they were all taken millennia and decades ago.
In 2002, when SLC was forthcoming, Diwaker got into building robots. “It was pre-Internet era in Janakpur and other resources were scarce. Part of me said, I should prepare for exams, and part wanted to heat up the soldering iron. It was an utter disruption but I was fortunate to have a tremendous support group for my projects. Most of them failed, which caused public embarrassment in multiple science fairs. Failures, as painful as they are, can only happen “success – 1” times; Persistence is the key to success”. As soon as the failures mounted to small but consistent successes, he realized that a lot of people were fascinated by home-brewed projects presented in the science fairs. A team of his close friends and seniors were dedicated to pushing scientific literacy in society. They started a science club to teach building devices using locally available electronic spare parts. Science club workshops helped raise the quality of exhibits at the local science festivals.
At the age of 18, Diwaker was the youngest person to receive the academy award in the field of science and technology by Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (then RONAST) by the then royal family. He was also coined International physics young ambassador by European physical society (Gold medal). Nepal Jaycees awarded him the national gold medal for his technical works and its public outreach.
He used the public platforms to push the idea to build a science city in Janakpur. He says, “It’s great to have Janaki Mandir as an identifier, but that’s not an investment into our future”.
During University, Diwaker got associated with a research group in Germany building instruments for Aircraft and spacecraft. He recalls, “I learned more in six months here than in decades back home. This is the power of learning by doing. In Nepal, teachers should know that assembling oscillators only on blackboard come with some real world limitation”.
In order to keep moving and learn cutting edge disciplines, he joined Leibniz institute, a prominent research center in Germany specializing in photoactive nanolayers. In parallel joined the most renowned research center Max Planck institute specializing in Brain science to work with big data and 7T fMRI systems.
Later, he accepted an offer from Nano-Science Center in Denmark, where he worked with state-of-the-arts Synchrotron facilities in Switzerland and France. Synchrotrons are very powerful particle accelerators, which confine electrons in bunches and accelerate them close to the speed of light. When the electron’s trajectory is bent, they produce a burst of ultra high intensity X-ray photons.
In the universe, such radiation arises around black holes. On earth, there are a couple of facilities that can emulate this phenomenon. These facilities serve to push the frontiers of human knowledge right now. His doctoral work described the usage of such powerful X-rays to see inside materials at unprecedented details. A spin off of his method was used in a study by the Smithsonian museum, which got wide international coverage in popular science and art media. In 2013, Nano-Science center awarded him and in 2014 he received the presidential scholar award by the Microscopy Society of America.
The setback of moving abroad was that the science activism back home slowly faded away. As political turmoil in Nepal was settling, the team organized a two day workshop on embedded systems in Janakpur. His childhood friend and science activist Sanjeet Raj Pandey led the event and donated the required devices to local schools.
After having lived in different countries in different scientific capacities and fifteen technical papers, he is now into building high precision instruments using Lasers. In addition to that, he has founded a startup that combines his expertise in cutting edge imaging and hyperspectral systems with robotics to build data driven intelligent products. Besides doing science, he loves science outreach, travel, and photography.
Diwaker, a Janakpurian, still harbors the dream to make a science city in Janakpur.