By Gohar Hakobian

The National Foundation of Science and Advanced Technologies (NFSAT) in cooperation with the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation recently enabled several young Armenian scientists to travel to the U.S. for three months and carry out research as part of the Support for Young Scientists program. Seven out of 14 applicants were selected for this program. We asked four of the scientists – Anahit Gogian, Aram Zeytunian, David Gevorgian and Hovik Panosian – to tell us about their impressions of their time in the U.S. All four of them are ANSEF grantees.

David Gevorgian spent time at the Fine Organic Chemistry Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. The laboratory at Emory stunned him with its wide array of equipment. When asked what scientists need most in Armenia he replied, “The question can be answered in two ways – one is abstract, the other is concrete. We can philosophize endlessly, but science is very expensive and we need to decide what fields of research are important in our country. Otherwise we just produce papers, which doesn’t necessarily mean we will take action.”

And does he see his future in Armenia or outside of its borders?

“I try to realize both versions. I don’t have any illusions. If it won’t work out here I’ll try it abroad,” David said.

Anahit Gogian from the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia’s Institute for Physical Research, was placed at the University of California, Berkeley. The young scientist knew her host Dmitry Budkerin because they attended the same university since 2007. Anahit was astonished both by the university itself and the technical equipment available in the laboratory. “Although I am a theorist entering the laboratory I wanted to work on experiments,” she said. Drawing parallels between the scientific realities of Armenia and America she mentioned that in Armenia, a scientist has to fight against not only bureaucratic delays but also find money for projects and equipment.

“In Armenia, a scientist loses time on solving technical problems instead of actually pursuing science. U.S. laboratories have everything you need and if any part is missing a researcher can order and use it without asking the supervisor.”

Aram Zeytunian, a representative of Yerevan State University’s High-speed Optics and Laser Physics Laboratory, talked about his experience at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He says at Cornell everything is different. “A student can order the necessary equipment without discussing it. At the end of the year the student has to present a report on why it was necessary. These are all the working conditions in the USA, but it is also very difficult. For example, I went to work from 9 am until 11 pm.”

Hovik Panosian, associate professor at Yerevan State University’s Department of Microbiology went to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The work done by Hovik was purely experimental and it was related to microbe biodiversity studies. He hopes to be able to continue with it. If needed, scientists can work nonstop in the U.S., but that is not always possible in Armenia, he said. “An experiment can take hours and if scientists are not motivated and they have time limitations for carrying on their experiments, science becomes a duty rather than a calling,” Hovik pointed out. He added that young Armenian scientists don’t have access to necessary websites, leading scientific magazines, and their Internet access is very limited.

David Gevorgian says that in all U.S. universities and laboratories there is always creativity, everyone is busy with work, everything is available to the scientist, and it just takes a couple of clicks on the computer to access a scientific article or obtain information from the most used databases.

(left to right) Anahit Gogian, Aram Zeytunian,
David Gevorgian and Hovik Panosian recently returned to Armenia
after spending time in the U.S. as part of the Support for
Young Scientists program.