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Setting up a Global Warming Research Center…in Antarctica by The Humanitarian Blog

Meet Zahir Dossa ’08 (Courses 6 and 15; Nu Delta), who could sell you your own shirt and convince you that he’s going to change the world in the same breath.

One of the most memorable conversations that I’ve had at MIT was also one of the shortest. It went something like this —

“What do you want to do after school?”

“I’m going to set up a global warming research center in Antarctica.”

“Why there?”

“Why not solve global warming on the continent that’s going to sink fastest because of it?”

I couldn’t argue with that logic.

Meet Zahir Dossa ’08 (Courses 6 and 15; Nu Delta), who could sell you your own shirt and convince you that he’s going to change the world in the same breath. I’ve never met anyone who has more energy when he claims to be tired than most people have when they claim to be wide awake.

Hailing from Dallas, Texas, Zahir has been passionate about engineering his entire life. In 6th grade, he asked his best friend at the time what the best school in the world was. Without the slightest hesitation, his friend replied, “MIT”: Zahir wanted to come here from that moment on.

Over the past three years, he’s established himself as a techie par excellence. His 6.170 team won the award for the best Gizmoball game in Fall 2005, he completed a competitive internship at IBM Extreme Blue, and he spent a summer teaching Java programming in Kenya through the Africa Internet Technology Initiative.

However, he also has the business savvy (and an impeccable sense of style to go with it) to make his ideas happen. Zahir’s currently implementing treadle-powered irrigation pumps in Sudan, where water scarcity is believed to be one of the most important sources of conflict. If his idea proves successful there, as all indicators suggest that it will be, he’ll export his solution to neighboring African countries. He plans to use the profits from his NGO to fuel this expansion and establish a fund for investing in other companies that focus on sustainable development.

But he’s not just exporting his solutions; he’s spreading his passion.

This semester, I’m fortunate enough to be taking his class, “SP.233: Think Tank: Global Solutions.” It brings together students to address some of the world’s most challenging problems. Zahir wants the class teams to convert their solutions into full-fledged business proposals, submit them to various Institute competitions, and ultimately use Public Service Center funding to implement them in various developing countries.

Having seen him conceive and develop numerous ideas over the years, I’ve learned an invaluable lesson: While you can’t plunge ahead without any forethought, you’re never going to get anything done if you never stop thinking.

Don’t be ignorant of the logistical challenges that you’ll encounter, but don’t let the thought of them stop you from developing an amazing idea.

Most importantly, listen neither to those who tell you that nothing will go wrong nor to those who tell you that nothing will go right. Listen to those who challenge you at every step of the way but ultimately believe that your dream can become a reality.

I don’t know what Zahir ultimately hopes to do, if only because he generates so many powerful ideas. Maybe he’ll solve global warming or save Africa or come up with something even more amazing than the Internet. All I know is that our world needs him now more than ever, and that he’ll be ready to answer the call whenever it may come.

16 responses to “Setting up a Global Warming Research Center…in Antarctica”

  1. jh says:

    antarctica.. cool..

  2. Alexander says:

    Hey thats exactly what I want to do if I get into MIT. Not the Antartica thing, although that would be real nice, but the Course 6 and 15 double major. Hey Zahir I know it will be real hard but if you do it will you have to give up doing electives in other fields in order to finish it or is it possible to also pursue other interests. Sorry about deviating from the topic by the way. I was just really excited by that.

  3. Nihar says:

    1..2..3..WOWW! Im truly amazed at the number of people at MIT who carry around ‘Incredible’ as their middle name!

    If you ever read this, Im impressed with your way of thinking. Pausing the thinking process in order to adress the logistical issues that an idea raises shows the true hands-on nature of your ideas.
    Can you shed some light on how you would actually “solve” the global warming phenomena out there in Antarctica? Would “study” be more apt here?
    Im sorry if I sound ignorant, but I couldnt help wondering.

    Excellent post Ali! Im delighted to see that the humanitarian blog has started out on such an inspirational note.
    Keep posting! Cheers!^^

  4. Hunter '11 says:

    What I love about MIT is that there are so many people here who don’t just want to go and make as much money as they can, but they really want to make a difference. They can, and they have! And they will…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Africa as a continvent doesn’t need saving!!! Only some countries in it!!! There are many prosperous countries in Africa!!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    really,guys at MIT are always upto something creative and revolutionary

  7. Zahir says:

    Alexander- You can definitely do a 6 (EECS) and 15 (Management) double major in 4 years b/c they both have a lot of overlapping courses. You would average taking 4 to 5 courses a term and still be able to take a decent amount of electives (you need to in order to get the unit requirement for the double major)

  8. Zahir says:

    “Africa as a continent doesn’t need saving!!! Only some countries in it!!! There are many prosperous countries in Africa!!!”

    You are completely correct and I’m sure Ali would also agree. By saving, he was referring to economic development through social entrepreneurship–it was just a catchier way to say it smile

  9. Ali says:

    Hi, Anonymous.

    I fully agree with you and Zahir.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Zahir! Also are you doing the Course 6 Masters in 5 years thing? Is that out of the question considering the double major?

  11. Alexander says:

    Sorry didn’t mean to be anonymous!

  12. Winnie says:

    Global Warming…
    I just can’t help to be excited every time I saw these words.I’m worried all the time.I just hope something, some projsct will rescue us from the disaster we may have…
    So, hope you dream come true…

  13. Winnie says:

    ……some project……

  14. Winnie says:

    But I don’t agree with you about Africa. Although there are rich countries, the average is still poor. I’m an Asian, and you’re Americans, right? I bet we are all richer than them. So it’s our duty to save them. This is what we call humanitarian, right?
    Just in my opinion.

  15. Alexander says:

    @ Zahir,
    Nice! Man now I really want to get into MIT!

  16. Zahir says:

    Alexander– I am doing the Masters in Course 6 starting next semester actually smile Not at all out of the question and its neat to do 6 and 15 so you can apply your Masters thesis to a real-world situation!