A daughter of a colleague of mine reported on Facebook from Australia,” Naiyyum Chacha is  seriously ill and hospitalised due to pancreatic cancer.” My daughter conveyed this sad news to me.  The next message I received, it was all over. Dr. Naiyyum Choudhury passed away. It was a great shock to believe that Naiyyum is no more with us. I met him in his office in December, 2018 before leaving for California. I had a few restless days due to this shocking news. I had no previous information concerning this serious illness of Naiyyum, nobody conveyed to me even in my last meeting with him.

Naiyyum was one of the young scientists of Radiobiology who just joined the PAEC in 1968. I was more close with them when I became the Head of the Radiobiology Division. Our relationship  was very informal like family members. All of them used to call me, ‘Main Bhai’. In our time in Dhaka University we used to respect our seniors as older brothers and addressed them as ,’Bhai’. Most of them saw me in the University as their senior and few of them found me as a teacher of the Zoology Department in 1961-62. Therefore, our formal official barrier was non-existent and my relationship with them became very cordial.


Naiyyum was a very bright, intelligent , sincere, hard working and amiable scientist and quiet in nature. He was very friendly with his colleagues and dedicated to his work. I can not recollect anytime he was involved in activities other than his profession and academics. Other than professional, sometimes my colleagues used to meet and discuss with me subjects related to their careers and personal matters. But Naiyyum was quite different, he was also never actively involved in any scientific politics of AECD. My long association with the Radiobiology Division as well as Director of Institute of Food and Radiation Biology (IFRB), Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE), Savar and Bioscience Division of BAEC only once he came to me on behalf of the colleagues in 1969 to complain against an assistant who was just attached to my division from the administration as typist. The assistant was absolutely worthless and good for nothing as a typist. Naiyyum had no sympathy considering that person was coming from his home district. 

I had to leave Dhaka in October, 1969 to do post-doctoral fellowship and came to Bangladesh in December 1972  to join BAEC as Head of Radiobiology Division of AECD and Officer in Charge of IPCORI. Naiyyum was one of my young colleagues who had to give up his PhD scholarship due to his active participation in our liberation war in 1971. Naiyyum joined AECD in 1972. 

In 1972, IAEA decided to form Regional Projects and submitted them to the Member States for approval. I came back from IAEA with the copy of the proposal and followed it up in the Secretariat of the Government for the approval of five Ministries involved in subject matters of R&D. It was a very strenuous and laborious job. Once approved, scientists could directly contact the IAEA technical officers for the implementation of the projects. The first project of Bangladesh was Food Irradiation and I was its Chief Scientific Investigator. It was run so successfully, Bangladesh became one of the leading countries  not only in Asia and the Pacific Region in R&D of Food Irradiation Processing but globally, particularly in developing countries. In 1982 Naiyyum came back from Australia after his Ph.D. in Biotechnology. He continued R&D in microorganisms for industrial application and also received the support of the IAEA. I was impressed by the significant and praiseworthy contribution of him in IAEA's Regional Projects, particularly in our Region. I was heavily involved in our FAO and IAEA projects, expert missions of IAEA, consultant in drafting International Code, resource person in training, workshops and seminars of IAEA, FAO and other international organizations, attending technical and advisory meetings and presenting invited papers in international symposia and conferences on behalf of the UN organizations in addition to my scientific, administrative and developmental activities of BAEC. 

I joined IAEA in 1987 after taking an early pension from the BAEC and was looking after the Regional Projects of Food Irradiation, in addition to Asia and Pacific Region as Technical Officer and Scientific Secretary. I was very impressed and proud of the contribution of Dr. Naiyyum Choudhury in the IAEA as a representative of Bangladesh in the meetings, particularly his leading role in Asian Regional Projects. I should also mention here a significant contribution of BAEC in 1991 inviting to host a Training Programme in Food Irradiation sponsored by the IAEA, FAO and WHO. I was the technical officer of the event and Naiyyum’s Institute of Food and Radiation Biology of AERE, Savar was the host Institute. 

I came back from Vienna in 1997 and settled in Dhaka University Campus where a flat was allotted to my wife, Professor Dr. Roquia Begum. My wife used to know Naiyyum’s wife Prof. Shamima, who was a faculty of the Department of Physics. Couple of times I visited Naiyyum when he was the chairman of BAEC and his office was in AECD in D.U. Campus. His assignment  as chairman was ending in September, 2003; I decided to give him a farewell call in his current position. He welcomed me into his office and told me,”Main Bhai, my chairmanship is going to be extended as told by the ministry. It is waiting in the Prime Minister’s office for her signature.” I was very happy to hear this news. I knew how efficient Naiyyum was. I also had the opportunity to watch him representing Bangladesh in IAEA during his tenure as Member and Chairman of BAEC. The following week I decided to visit him to congratulate him on his extension. When I was about to climb the last stairs to reach his office the name of a lady (from ministry) appeared as the Chairman of BAEC. I could not believe my eyes. How on earth someone strange, unknown and never associated with Nuclear Science could become a Chairman of a technical, specialized, respectful and largest science organization of the country associated with national and international bodies.How it could happen. I was feeling ashamed thinking about her representation in the IAEA and other UN bodies. I never went to BAEC Head Office so long it was in AECD campus.

I moved to Gulshan from Dhaka University Residential Area in 2004. One of my closest friends and colleagues late Dr. Ziauddin Ahmed was a faculty member of BRAC University. Upon his invitation I made a couple of social visits to his University. Naiyyum was also a part-time faculty member of BRAC University and their rooms were adjacent to each other. Therefore, I had the opportunity to meet both of them. Once Dr. Ahmed called me and proposed that I could give lectures in Biology to their undergraduate students. It would also enable me to spend good time with them as I would not have to make a strenuous journey through the terrible traffic and traffic jam in Dhaka; my residence was near to the BRAC university. I was not willing, however, due to his insistence I agreed to make a try. I realized he discussed it with Dr. Jamilur Reza Choudhury, the Vice Chancellor of the university who was also known to me. I checked the syllabus, gave a lecture and realized that I was no longer a biologist of 1961 when I used to give lectures to undergraduate students of Dhaka University. My subject had been changed to Radiation Processing of Food, with emphasis on Radiation Disinfestation. I was considered an expert on the subject and travelled globally to facilitate R&D and practical application of food irradiation. I knew Dr. Ziauddin, Naiyyum and another former junior colleague of mine who was a regular faculty member and in Charge of the Science Faculty would be disappointed. I wrote to the Vice Chancellor and declined the offer and thanked him for his consideration of me for this position.

In July, 2009 honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina invited Former President of India late A.P.J. Abul Kalam as her private guest. A dinner was arranged at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence. I was at the same table with the Prime Minister, Indian President, Deputy Leader of Parliament Mrs. Sajeda Choudhury, Vice Chancellors of Dhaka University and BUET, Dr. Azad Choudhury and Dr. Naiyyum Choudhury. I was very happy meeting Naiyyum who was seated next to me. I was also proud of how valued he was as a scientist in the country.

I am going down the memory lane to write about my attachment with Dr. Naiyyum Choudhury whom I always considered like my brother. We both had one common interest in addition to our profession academics. He was always associated with different universities (DU, BUET, JNU) in addition to a Scientist of BAEC and contributed immensely in higher studies in microbiology, genetic engineering & biotechnology. 

I did not know that I was going to meet Naiyyum for the last time in December, 2018, before leaving for California in January, 2019. It was just a coincidence and I call  it a Will of Allah. I was afraid of my movement in Dhaka, as mentioned before due to its pollution and notorious traffic jam. I thought to visit Head Office BAEC and as the Office of the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission was in the same campus, I would visit Naiyyum. I never met him after he became the chairman of the Regulatory Commission. I called him in his Office. His immediate reaction, “ Main Bhai, when you are coming. I have meetings with the Ministry, I will postpone it if you tell me when you are coming.” This was a normal reply from Naiyyum that I always had. The following day I had been in his office. I was also pleased and happy to meet two of my very dear former colleagues, Eng. Obaidul Awal and Dr. Shahana, members of the Commission.

Naiyyum’s death ended the loss of a number of my close friends and colleagues last year. His loss aggrieved me greatly because he was the youngest, and his death was sudden as I had no previous information concerning his health. Country lost a very dedicated scientist, and I can not think that I will not see Naiyyum again. His departure at the time of the important juncture of the nation in establishment of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant which was our dream since 1964, will be strongly felt. I have no language to console Prof. Dr. Shamima and the children. I know the pain they are going through as I also lost my wife Dr. Prof. Roquia at a time of life when I needed her most. May Allah grant the departed soul a place in Jannatul Ferdous and strength to the family to bear the unbearable loss. Ameen.

Dr. Mainuddin Ahmed,

Former Official, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, Dhaka and 

International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria.