An interview with Lujendra Ojha
Lujendra Ojha (L. Ojha) is a Nepalese planetary and space scientist, geophysicist and a student seeking his PhD honors in Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He did his graduation from the University of Arizona. Ojha, originally from Mhepi, Kathmandu, moved out to the US at his early teenage along with his family. He is a well known figure now since the Critics, scientists and media all over the globe cited his name for his incredible work on the discovery of the possibility of Life on Mars. Here’s what he had to say on:
· Tell us about your schooling and the early childhood days you underwent in Nepal.
The summary of the story is that I was born and raised in Kathmandu. I was/am an avid fan of cricket and music. I used to play in a band in Nepal. I used to play sports a lot: cricket, soccer you name it. I was crazy about science and always used to ask philosophical questions about the reality of the universe. I was never religious and have completely denounced the concept of god now.
· You had a pretty good academic career. Your moving out to US to kick in good universities such as University of Arizona definitely shows your potency. What else did play the role? (I mean your family)
Nothing much to tell. It was always good morale and hard work that worked for me. Luck played a role too. And of course, good family and friends are always a plus.
· Researchers and students all over the world dream about NASA or any of its affiliations. How did you manage to get associated with them?
Actually, I worked hard for it. Nevertheless, working for NASA is not as hard as people imagine. Do the good work. Show your potential, that's it. There is no magical cookbook formula.
· Kindly, please tell us what actually did you discover that you became international news overnight?
We had lots and lots of images of Martian surface from spacecraft that were not studied. A software (algorithm) was used to remove out any shadows so as to obtain a high definition image and then I found some finger like streaks on the surface consisting basically of salty water (brine). I think you will find the details everywhere if you search for "Recurring Slope Lineae". We found the best evidence that exists for evidence of present day brines (salty water) on Mars.
· Are you still working with Prof. Dr. Alfred Mc Ewen (the chief investigator of the Mars surface images)? After you discovered the presence of occasional brine in lower Martian latitudes, what sort of or to what extent of credit are you getting from him, JPL and other NASA affiliations whatsoever, regarding your incredible work?
No, I am not under Dr. McEwen at the moment. I got my Bachelors last year and am now a PhD student at Georgia Institute of Technology. Well, as far as credit goes, I am given the credit. No complaints whatsoever. More than anything, my work has opened many other doors at JPL and NASA for life exploration missions too. For example, I have started working for this mission: InSight (Interior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport). This is a new mission to Mars (2016 launch date) that will try to uncover the nature of sub surface geophysics on Mars.
· An algorithm (mathematical software) was developed to solve the distortion of images of Mars sent on to the earth by spacecraft. Who developed the algorithm?
I did it. It was used to delete the image noises and shadows and also that to compare the images of different seasons in Mars.
· Do you have any idea about what the current figure of Nepalese students and employees that are working independently or directly in the field of geophysics and astrophysics for NASA projects is?
I have no idea. I am a lone fish in a big ocean.
What do you plan to do after your PhD degree?
Keep working in Planetary Science. My motto has always been, "Dislodge a pebble that will once create an avalanche."
· Any plans of visiting Nepal? I heard you used to have a keen interest in the Himalayas of Nepal when you were here.
Someday soon. Maybe it will be a surprise.
· Your final words for those students who want to pursue a research career.
Say no to authority. Say no to control, peer pressure, and anything else that dare stand on your way. Remember, "We must know. We will know." Ignorance is bliss, but only to the weak willed. Damn them. Carry on. “