Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union in March 2011, compared the US and the European Union to a pair of mountain climbers “scaling the steep cliff of growth toward greater prosperity while battling against harsh economic crosswinds.” She was attending an event on US-EU Cooperation and Innovation. “The relationships that we build with our partners,” she concluded, “will help determine our progress on the climb to prosperity, and together we will reach our summit.”
I could not agree more with Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn’s sentiments. Successfully addressing global challenges, such as those in health, environment, and energy, is indeed contingent upon effective cooperation and collaboration between nations. That much became apparent to me during my three years of conducting biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, where I worked in the lab of Dr. Susan Wray and studied the neuroendocrinological regulation of mammalian reproduction.
This past July, I served as the Deputy Chair of an international conference called Wikimania 2012, which was attended by 1,400 people from 87 countries, and focused on empowering individuals around the globe through free access to the sum of human knowledge. Prior to my time at the NIH and Wikimania, I attended Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, where I graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Biological Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Journalism.
Working at the NIH and being on the leadership team of an international conference were tremendous opportunities for me. My time at the NIH allowed me to work in the field and interact with national and international scientists, where I started to gain a better understanding of the importance of international cooperation and collaboration in science research. My experience during Wikimania made me even more aware of the power of global collaboration, which, in one way or another, had always been a part of my life.
I have been living in the United States since 1999 and became a US citizen in 2004. I grew up in Syria under the regime of Hafez al-Assad, but I was still fortunate to be a part of a family that maintained an international perspective. My parents, who, between them, spoke four languages, raised me in an environment where I developed an interest in the cultural and linguistic aspects of international communities. In that environment, I also developed a love of science and an appreciation for the ability to answer tough questions with diligent and thorough research.
I am grateful to now have the opportunity to combine my experience in research and my enthusiasm for international relations during my Fulbright-Schuman experience. In Belgium, with the help of my hosts at the Brussels-based “ISC Intelligence in Science,” I will focus on studying the political, economic, and regulatory foundations behind early-career funding mechanisms sponsored by the European Commission, including future funding under the proposed Horizon 2020 program. In Germany, with the help of the Berlin-based “Institute for Research Information and Quality Assurance” (iFQ), I will interact with early-career scientists who have received funding through the Marie Curie Actions grants program to better understand how the program affected their mobility and career choices in Europe.
In international science cooperation, the US and EU are natural partners. From formal channels of dialogue, such as BILAT-USA, to informal collaborations between scientists on both sides, the transatlantic partners have a vibrant relationship. For me, the opportunity provided through the Fulbright-Schuman program is perfect illustration of it. I eagerly await arriving in Brussels to begin this journey and look forward to tasting authentic Belgian waffles!
Until next time,
Nicholas Michael Bashour