"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"Diwata-1" and What It Takes to Become a Scientist

Two weeks ago, the first-Filipino made microsatellite named Diwata-1 was brought to outer space by the Atlas V rocket. Diwata-1's objective was to capture images for weather patterns, agricultural productivity, and land and water resources in the Philippines. The microsatellite was part of an initiative from Hokkaido University and Tohoku University. Countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand and Mongolia were given the opportunity to build a network of microsatellites that would monitor the region's weather and natural resources. March 23 was a significant date. After all, it paved way for the first Philippine satellite to be launched before the end of the Aquino administration.

Above copied from CNN Philippines 
The first Philippine microsatellite, Diwata-1
Above photo copied from ASEAN Military Defense Review

Sadly, a week later, one of the Filipino engineers, Paolo Espiritu, shared on Facebook grievances against the Philippines' Department of Science and Technology (DOST). The following is the part that captured my attention:
They call us “students”, yet normal students go in at 9am, and leave at 5pm. Normal students attend class all the time. Normal students are almost finished on their individual thesis projects. Normal students have personal time on the weekends. Normal students enjoy holidays. But no. We are not just students. We go in at 9am, and leave at 1am. Most of the days, we have no choice but to skip our classes to work on the microsatellite. We have no chance to work on our thesis projects. We go the lab on Saturdays. We go to the lab on Sundays. We go to the lab on holidays. We go to the lab during Christmas. So no. We are not just students.
Perhaps, Paolo has not seen the following. It is an article written by John Skylar. The title of the article captures a horrifying picture of what it takes to become a scientist.

Above copied from John Skylar's Talebearing
Not all graduate students may be giving up their firstborn, but graduate students do work long hours. Graduate students are not paid generous salaries, only a stipend, only enough to get by each day. I sometimes show new graduate students in classes I teach the following:
The first date shown is when an editor received a paper we submitted to a journal for consideration. In 1993, papers were still submitted through the post office and took about a week or two to be received indicating that this paper was written over the holiday season.

What does it take to become a scientist? A lot. And that is not an understatement.




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