On September 12, 2001, as many of us recoiled from television footage of airplanes on fire, 25-year-old Florin Ţibu headed to the Bucharest airport. For him, the day’s line-up would be chaotic, yes, but also exciting: his first flight, his first trip outside of Romania, and the first step of his new life as a scientist.
Ţibu flew to London’s Heathrow airport, and it was everything he expected of the West — clean, friendly, and full of overpriced fast food restaurants. After another flight and a long drive, he reached his new home at Liverpool Hope University. He was in the U.K. for a year, working on a Master’s degree in psychology. A few years later, he came back to England for his doctorate. Then, shiny new Ph.D. in hand, Ţibu did what the vast majority of Romanians who get professional training abroad do not: He went home.
I met Ţibu in November, in Bucharest. He is a post-doctoral fellow for the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, or BEIP, a 13-year study tracking the brain and behavioral development of Romanian orphans. I had gone to Bucharest to shadow Charles Nelson, one of the three U.S. scientists who launched BEIP, and to meet some of the orphans. But Ţibu opened my eyes to another problem. Romania, a democratic country of 19 million people and part of the European Union, has shockingly few scientists, and even fewer successful scientists.
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