By Nazrul I. Khandaker, GSA Fellow and Chair, GSA International; Professor of Geology at York College and Graduate Center, City University of New York
Rezina Shams (Dhaka University geology graduate 1985; née Rezina Bashar) is the first known female geologist from Bangladesh to obtain a PhD in 1991 (University of Birmingham, UK). Rezina’s undergraduate and graduate education in geology at Dhaka University (DU) was at a time when only a handful of female students attended the program.
Rezina’s debut into her geology career began with the Master Plan Organisation (MPO) and then the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (1986). Rezina kept her aspirations alive, and eventually furthered her geoscience education to a PhD. Upon receiving a PhD in 1991 from the University of Birmingham under the British Commonwealth Scholarship, she returned home briefly, and then settled in Australia.
During the last two decades, Rezina has worked in various capacities including in teaching and research at the Universities of Curtin (Perth) and Western Sydney (Sydney), as an environmental consultant with Coffey Environments, hydrogeologist and Project Manager with Australian State Government agencies. Rezina is now a senior hydrogeologist with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in Melbourne, Australia. She progressed through an early career as a field hydrogeologist to now providing technical analysis for state government water regulation. Her specialty includes the investigation and remediation of soil and groundwater contamination due to agriculture and industrial activities, project approvals and compliance monitoring of mining industries, and developing water management policy and strategy. Furthermore, Rezina has been involved in teaching and applied research on ecologically sustainable development approaches pertaining to environmental management and remediation.
In contrast with Rezina’s time of enrollment (1978 – 1985) at Dhaka University, the current female student enrollment trend in the geosciences program at DU is equal to or predominant over the male counterpart! It is certainly furthering the geoscience discipline at DU, traditionally known to have a much smaller female representation, and is rapidly transforming the attitude of the incoming students to choose a geoscience major. The narrowing of the gender gap and encouraging female students’ representation in the geosciences by DU are quite noteworthy (Image 2 and Image 3).
Rezina’s excellent academic achievement and demonstrated professional experience in the field of earth science spanning over two decades can certainly serve as an exemple for others to follow and achieve milestones in their pursued majors. A modest and caring individual, Rezina recently communicated with Khandaker saying – “I am working in my professional field but my achievements are not outstanding, but it has been flexible and adapting. I am always keen to contribute in any way to Bangladesh and female society as a whole, professionally.”
Broader Impact: Given the present economic growth of Bangladesh, it will be quite prudent to focus on female population (almost 50% of the total population; World Bank Data), particularly residing in rural settings, and equip them with STEM-related skills to ensure sustained economic growth. Bangladesh aspires to be a high-income country by 2041 and will certainly need a trained workforce to compete and succeed with rapidly transforming technologies. Role models like Rezina Shams and several others who earned distinctions in various STEM disciplines are poised to motivate and trigger interest among the village girls (Inspiring Bangladeshi girls towards STEM, one role model at a time –The Daily Star, July 13, 2021). Many are known to stop attending school and fall behind for socioeconomic reasons. Surely, it is an adverse situation and widens the technological gap among girls (Barriers to STEM education for rural girls: A missing link to innovation for a better Bangladesh – Nasrin Siddiqa co-authored with Amanda Braga, 2019).
The Bangladesh Open University (BOU) currently led by Syed Humayun Akhter (geology professor at Dhaka University, Bangladesh) as Vice-Chancellor is considering a plan to supplement girls’ education, at least leading up to the college level with sufficient vocational and entrepreneurship training. Overall, the geoscience program at various universities are being restructured to focus on disaster management, natural resource management science, public health, and agro-forestry related disciplines.
Congratulations to Rezina for having earned such an incredible distinction.
Shams, Rezina. Groundwater Condition Report for Decision Making, 2018. pp.762‐776.
Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium (HWRS 2018), pp. 762-776. Melbourne, Australia 3 – 6 December 2018. Available online at http://toc.proceedings.com/47123webtoc.pdf
Roger Attwater, Jane Aiken, Gavin Beveridge, C.A. (Sandy) Booth, Chris Derry, Rezina Shams, and Joel Stewart, 2006. An adaptive systems toolkit for managing the Hawkesbury water-recycling scheme. Desalination, Volume 188, Issues 1–3, page 21-30.
R. Shams, Ph.D. Thesis, 1991, “Palaeohydrogeological evolution of the northeast Lincolnshire chalk aquifer” – University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. Thesis Supervisor: Professor John Lloyd
My sincere thanks to Dr. Khandaker for writing this post. I must say I was a bit surprised when he approached me several months ago. I am glad that he did because without his initiative I could not have reached people I know or don’t know. Also thanks to everyone who has posted a message.
While working as a hydrogeologist in a consulting firm in Melbourne, I worked on one or two hydrogeology projects that she managed. Considering the Department she represented, I was sure she’s an expert in the field.
But I wasn’t aware of her ground breaking feats. Kudos!