Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Talking Science

I have realised how much philosophy there is in speaking in Science. The more I move, the more it is obvious to me that Science also plays the role that a language would play in our lives.

Recently, I started working for a biofuel company with a pilot plant and R&D unit, close to my town. On my first day, I was introduced to two chemists who work on the NREL protocol. I caught up with them in less than half a day. All of us had worked extensively on the same standard method. I started my PhD with that method, and they had worked on it day and night for the past two years. But unlike me, they never worked with the big names in biofuel research. Nor did they get to attend conferences. But their results were spot on, with consistency, throughput and precision that made me feel inferior.

It was a humbling moment for me. You don't really have to travel the world to be good at something. When I meet people who do their jobs with great love and infinite patience; people who never express their opinion on the future of the world that they are silently helping us build; people who figure things out on their own, independently, because they carry out the same experiments in the first shift, and then the second shift, it makes me realise the futility in quantifying achievements.

Stepping out of the somewhat monolithic structure of academia, it is refreshing to be a part of a diverse group of people with diverse and interconnected technical problems (that always need urgent solutions). It is also funny to see how, when the end goal is profit, people miraculously learn to leave their ego aside (at least when they are in trouble).

But more than everything else, I am constantly amazed with this common language that all of us speak, all over the world.