Virgil Florin Duma

Fulbright Scholar, 2009-2010

The US universities experience is a must – I think – in the life of any established or young researcher. It means the contact with a highly professional and competitive academic environment. I have to say that I was pretty amazed (and delighted) myself about the amount of work and the commitment encountered in the top university I am as a Fulbright Senior Researcher, for this academic year (Oct. 2009-June 2010). University of Rochester (UoR) is rated 77 in the international ranking of universities (Shanghai criterion), but #1 in Optics in the USA. Its Institute of Optics, where I am a Visiting Professor for my Fulbright Fellowship really demonstrates that place.

While in Romania hard work in research is – in many places – but a hobby (unpaid and unrecognized) in universities, here that is the basis of everyday life (more than activity, it's has become a way of living). While being here, one does realize this is a tradition one has to bring back home.

In these 5 months that passed I had results and publications for which in my home university nobody would have cared for. Here, I've been encouraged and supported every step of the way; that included financial support from the university (although I have not specifically asked for it!) for every conference, activity or piece of equipment needed – a model to be followed if we want Romania to mean something in tomorrow's world. I am not idealizing things; I merely say these people, this system, these institutions seem to know their interest, what's best for them, and act accordingly. We have still to learn all these. This is for the discussion at a general level. At a personal one, most of the people I have encountered here do make an effort to be better, to have a positive evolution. From my contacts with the students here, they are educated that way from early childhood. On a general level (except for 'islands'), we seem to have lost that along the way. A shallow approach of life leads to failure of society.

I cannot say I was truly amazed by these aspects, although how smooth things were have been unexpected even for a person who has been in contact with some good European universities before. I simply found myself – from this point of view – at home, in a really normal work environment. This is an opportunity more Romanian researchers should have. Our national system may then benefit greatly from such an experience – providing our system will get 'healthier,' as it has to, i.e. to achieve the 'scientific meritocracy' needed in order to have a significance in the international academic community and for the national effort of development.

One may also appreciate, while being here (if sensitive enough or not 'blinded' by the thriving opportunities around), the good parts of the Romanian society: the bonding between people that we still have at home (hoping that is improving and not deteriorating with the 'rise of individualism' that here is a key to success but – sometimes – a boundary between people).

Ultimately, as a song of our youth said: "It's the classical dilemma: the head and the heart." Why can't we have both?

My fulbright experience

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Students at the advising center

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