Antarctica expedition’s success was icing on cake for Dr Parmjit Singh Sehra : The Tribune India

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Antarctica expedition’s success was icing on cake for Dr Parmjit Singh Sehra

Credits his scientific accomplishments to discipline, academic pursuits

Antarctica expedition’s success was icing on cake for Dr Parmjit Singh Sehra

Dr Parmjit Singh Sehra being felicitated during the 'Antarctica Day and Dakshin Gangotri's anniversary celebrations in Goa.

Tribune News Service

Avneet Kaur

Jalandhar, December 19

In the quiet confines of Bhana, a small village nestled between Garhdiwala and Dasuya in the Hoshiarpur district, the extraordinary journey of former ISRO scientist Dr Parmjit Singh Sehra unfolds. His odyssey, which commenced in humble surroundings, not only brought pride to Punjab but also elevated India on the global stage. Beyond the narrative of academic accomplishments, his story is a beacon of hope, determination and resilience, marking a path to greatness.

Felicitated in Goa

Recognition for Dr Parmjit Singh Sehra’s exceptional contributions came full circle during the Antarctica Day and Dakshin Gangotri’s 40th anniversary celebrations at National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa on December 1. NCPOR Director Dr Thamban Meloth honoured him for his ground-breaking work during the 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition.

Awards to his credit

Accolades for Dr Parmjit Singh Sehra include the prestigious Soviet Antarctic Medal, Ribbon and Polar Watch, along with fellowships and recognitions from institutions such as the New Zealand Antarctic Society, American Meteorological Society, Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) and others. He has pioneering research publications in reputed international scientific journals such as Nature to his credit.

An old picture of Parmjit Singh with his grandfather Bir Singh Sehra.

Driven by his grandfather’s wisdom — a small-scale farmer named Bir Singh Sehra —- young Parmjit internalised the belief that education was the key to progress. He vividly recalls walking the 5-6 km distance to Khalsa Higher Secondary School, Garhdiwala, with a book in hand, fuelled by his grandfather’s insistence on focusing solely on studies.

He says his father, Mohinder Singh, a postmaster, and mother Satwinder Kaur, Sarpanch of his village for about two decades, had great influence on his life, instilling in him the aspiration to achieve greatness and make his family and country proud.

Sharing a pivotal moment from his childhood, Dr Sehra humorously recounts an incident where he was caught playing cards by his grandfather. The stern admonition to prioritise education over frivolous pursuits left an indelible mark on him, steering him away from distractions and reinforcing his commitment to academic pursuits.

“During my higher secondary education, I secured the National Science Talent Search Scholarship of NCERT, a turning point that set the stage for my illustrious academic journey. I acknowledge the role of Principal Kartar Singh Bains, who on the last day of applying for this scholarship competition, compelled me to participate in it, ultimately leading to my victory in its first batch in 1964,” he said.

Dr Parmjit Singh Sehra’s academic journey then continued, achieving distinctions at DAV College Jalandhar, Panjab University, Allahabad University, and the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Gujarat University, where he earned his Ph.D in atmospheric physics in 1977 under the guidance of renowned scientist Prof PR Pisharoty. Notably, from 1971 to 1973, he became the first ever Indian to explore, circumnavigate and winter-over the southern polar ice cap in Antarctica, and also did Ph.D on ‘Atmospheric Structure: Exploration over Antarctica and Inter-Hemispheric Comparison’ with rockets as a project scientist with the 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition, which finally led to regular Indian Antarctic expeditions and bases there since 1981-82.

Following his Antarctic expedition, Dr Sehra’s professional endeavours spanned all the seven continents including the world’s coldest place, Vostok, at -89.3 degree Celsius in Antarctica and the hottest place, El-Zizia, at 58 degree Celsius in Sahara deserts, Libya, working as an expert, consultant and professor at esteemed institutions worldwide, including NASA in USA, WMO-UN and ICTP-UNESCO in Trieste, Italy.

Post-retirement from Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in 2007, he continued his academic contributions, serving as director/principal in various DAV engineering institutions and others, and as Dean and Head in Department of Physics in Lovely Professional University and Eternal University. Dr Sehra says that his commitment to education extends to his own family, with his children pursuing academic excellence — son Gaurav Singh Sehra in civil engineering and construction management at Texas A&M University, and daughter Dr Pamela Sehra excelling in dentistry in the USA. Also, his wife Bhupinder Sehra, is presently serving as senior consultant at Bilga General Hospital, a unit of CMCH, Ludhiana.

About The Author

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