Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Many nations, many scientists, one goal

I am currently sitting in my hotel room in Princeton, NJ.  The past 3 days have been filled with many presentations, interactions, and conversations about plasma physics, astrophysics, magnetic confinement fusion, etc..  While this may not the type of conference I usually attend (this one is very cross-disciplinary, and I am learning things in different subfields, but describing this would take this post too far from its original goal), there is something I've noticed during my time here.

And I've noticed it elsewhere as well.  It is something that makes me proud to be a scientist, no matter what the funding situation is or will be for science research.

The thing is, despite all of the stereotypes, and all of the tensions between various countries (politically, racially, or otherwise), one thing is clear: these boundaries don't really exist at these conferences.  Tonight, I sat at a table with people from Italy, the UK, France, and Germany - in fact, I was the ONLY American.  But as we sat and discussed things, some of which were science-related, some of which were just random tidbits of this and that, I realized that I did not once think of them as foreigners or outsiders in any way.

I relate to these people better than I do many of my own countrymen.  And that is because we all have the same goal: to answer the unanswered, to solve the unsolved, and to progress the state of the human species through scientific research and innovation.

This goal unites us as a species and allows collaborations between countries that aren't even on the best of terms.  We are able to look past our differences in language, culture, lifestyle, etc.. in order to move forward in the name of science.

I hope this post doesn't sound too preachy.  I am not actually getting on any soapbox here and calling for world peace (though, I wouldn't mind world peace - it's probably not a bad idea).  And I am definitely not trying to stir up turbulence ;)

All I am saying is that it's really freakin cool that I know people and even have friends from all over the world.  It is awesome that my papers have been read in many academic institutions across this "pale blue dot" (in the famous words of Carl Sagan).  Off the top of my head, I have colleagues and friends who are:  Italian, British, Russian, French, South African, German, Chinese, Iranian, Polish, Chilean, Brazilian, Australian, Indian, Canadian, and of course American.  My apologies if I left out a nationality - there are just so many!!

Being a scientist has allowed me to not only interact with so many different people and learn about their cultures, it has also expanded my mind as a human.  I will often times forget that I am even speaking to someone from another country.  And personally, I LOVE that.

So, yea, I am an American.  But first and foremost, I am a human and that is more important in the end.

Obligatory (and cheesy) picture of people holding hands to represent a united world

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