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Building Ro-US Research Bridges: Good Luck, Right Place, Right People



Opening Plenary Session: June 4th 2021

The conference host sought to have a representative of each of the five professionals’ councils represented in the plenary presentations. The council on medicine and public health was represented by IRF advisory board member Prof. Dr. George A Calin the Co-Director of The RNA Interference and non-coding RNA Center at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He presented his own experience in supporting academic research networks, peer, and mentor relationships as well as transnational collaborations that led to impressive results, high impact publications and recognition. Dr. Calin gave an overview of the good fortune of hailing from a genetic pool of high achievers but contended that Romanians, while incredibly successful individually in specific fields, often fail to highlight the value of networking and peer support, of affirming one’s cultural identity, the mentors, and multi-generational schools of thought on whose shoulders individual achievement is built. He provided a personal account of the Romanian-US research bridges built during the span of his career and the steep competition faced in bringing to the US the best and brightest minds. He lobbied to have the scientific diaspora unabashedly seek to actively attract Romanian young talent to the most competitive American universities as there is growing competition on the international stage and most of the American research and innovation is conducted by first- and second-generation migrants. The performance of Romanians attracted in the highest-ranking research centers of the US is ultimately a human capital that recommends Romanian universities on the international stage. Dr. Calin pitched the primacy of his extensive university campus as the top destination on cancer research and why he was successful to attract a constant flow of top Romanian researchers there. He showed the map of Romanian researchers with whom he coauthored papers and the rewarding outcomes of those collaborations. He declares himself “lucky to make discoveries in which so many Romanians are involved. “We are an incredibly lucky nation; we are hard workers and when we go somewhere we seek to be the best.” The many mentees he built throughout the years followed brilliant careers throughout the world including some returning to Romania while benefiting from prestigious international grants. Dr. Calin offered several examples of Romanian researchers whose, some of whose biomedical discoveries led to direct applicability in US department of defense measures, others who contribute from medical centers throughout Europe. The “highways” of research academic exchanges occurs through established connections of trust among professionals and the Fulbright Commission plays a great role in ensuring a stream of top worthy minds engaged in disseminating expertise and spurring discovery on both sides of the Atlantic. Dr. Calin called on Romanian Universities and researchers to make the most of the Horizon Europe funding mechanism and ensure that university alliances are built to improve the infrastructure for Romanian researchers to access Marie Curie research scholarships and ultimately have their meaningful research published in high impact publications. That visibility will improve the standing and international reputation of collaborating Romanian universities and provide a true reflection of Romanian contributions to research and development.

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