The excellence is Laura Mersini from Vlora
By Kosta Barjaba
It has been a few years that the support of the students and of the excellent specialists seems to be on the agenda of the governments in Albania. But, unfortunately, it has never gone further than non-excellent rhetoric for excellence, at least so far. This has always been an evaluation of mine. But the meeting with Laura Mersin, one of the stars of the Albanian excellence, a rare physicist cosmologist, professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, convinced me that our concept of excellence is outdated, politicized, nepotistic, and what is worst, corruptive.
1. Before I develop at length my conviction and these epithets for the treatment of the real excellent people of Albania, I am going to shortly introduce the reader to the scientist Laura Mersini Houghton. I met Laura, after I had heard incredible estimation about her. And all proved to be true. Being invited to hold a speech at a meeting organized in Vlora on the talented people abroad, Laura accepted this invitation modestly and with great commitment. A laureate in Physics at the University of Tirana, at the turn of the political changes in Albania, soon realized that her country's institutions had very little to offer her. Therefore, very soon she found herself in several prestigious American and European universities. Later, in 2008, she was asked to work at UC Chapel Hill. Her theoretical studies have been focused on the discovery of the origin of the Universe by multivers. Laura's success lies in the fact that, while previous predictions made by other scientist needed 50-60 years in order to be verified or refute, four out of five of her predictions, published in 2006, have been confirmed by the observations of satellites during 2007 -2013. If it was not for the wise and passionate woman Luiza Hoxha, the organizer of the meeting in Vlora, maybe we would know less about Laura, this exception to our race. However, Laura came to Albania, satisfied her longing for the city and for her grandmother in Vlora, and immediately flew to Ireland, for an experiment based on her studies. It is likely, that nobody else, except the participants of the meeting, have heard about her visit. Not to say that very few Albanians know about her scientific work. No newspapers and no televisions wrote about her. Screens and newspaper pages, but also those who need to know and use, in the true sense of the word, this valuable asset to the nation, are busy with other matters. Aferim ju qofte! Laura continues her work and is crowned by other nations.
2. Silence on Laura Mersin got me back again to my concerns regarding the vision that we have, or at least the vision that we have formally expressed about excellence. Obsolescence and incompleteness of this concept are quit noticeable. We are amazed from the excellence that entertains us and fills the screen, but we are insensitive to the soundless excellence, that gives its products in departments and laboratories of natural sciences and technology. With our box of excellence we are generous to anyone common, studying somewhere in Europe or in America, but we do not know or we do not want to do anything, because we are not interested in the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. We accept excellence only if it passes by the door of the parties and the government and not by the harsh war and scary competition in the world of science and knowledge. Furthermore, we are afraid to acknowledge real excellence because we are not free from the line of mediocre people, with whom we have different connections. Therefore we find it difficult to accept excellence if it does not refer to us and if he/she is not a relative of ours, a rich or powerful person, and a sponsor of the election campaigns. Because we are like that, that is why government programs supporting excellence either we put them in the service of the above criteria, or, God forbid, it happens that we sell them as we sell a building permit!
3. And finally, I have a proposal for our Academy of Sciences. Do not wait for Laura Mersini to come and to compete. Invite her to become a member of the Albanian Academy of Sciences, before the jury of the Nobel Prize awards her.