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Bucharest, Sept 15 / Agerpres / - At first glance, Luca Victor Iliesiu looks like a rock star or a Hollywood star, not like the young man who has won a NASA competition and awards in international contests when he was in high school, now studying Physics at Princeton, one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
Always smiling and self-assured, wearing bow ties and colourful shirts, he is passionate about any sport and if you do not know who you're talking to, you might say he has just stepped down the stages at a concert, came from a film premiere, or that he is a budding young artist. However, Luca's story is much different and it can be a source of inspiration for many young people like him.
A graduate of the Tudor Vianu National College of Computer Science of Bucharest, Victor Iliesiu Luca was a household name at national and international Physics competitions and Olympiads, being considered a little genius in the field. Even if his whole family works in the arts and Luca was the black sheep in this regard, he has always been encouraged and supported to do whatever he likes.
'I was advised to do whatever I like. My family work in the arts, which makes me the black sheep of the family - a sheep that has always been encouraged to be black,' the young man confesses.
He says about himself that he is at an advantage in that his life in high school was much less stressful, he had the opportunity to travel and get to know great people at the physics competitions in which he took part and at the same time to acquire sufficient knowledge to be able to cope at a faculty where he needs to study very diverse subject matters.
'Unlike the Romanian students, I guess the American students at Princeton generally had a more stressful high school life - they are more aware of the requirements of a good college even before applying for college,' argues Luca Victor Iliesiu.
Ever since high school, Luca has been involved in numerous NASA projects and competitions, his favourite being one for which he designed a supersonic jet to be manufactured in the next 50 years. 'It was extraordinary for us to think about what technologies could be possibly developed in the next half century,' says Luca.
The decision to go and study abroad came naturally, because, a pragmatist by nature, Luca knows that whether or not you want to work in Romania, the impact you may have after graduation will be much greater if you choose to study abroad.
At Princeton, the young Bucharester focuses on Cosmology and Particle Physics, confessing that he has always been passionate about how the world works. 'From understanding how a plane works, to the origins of the universe, I have always felt the need for a mathematical language that clarifies things,' the young man adds.
I ask him to explain more to my understanding with what the two subject matters deal, and he makes an interesting analogy that can clarify things for any neophyte.
'Both Cosmology and Particle Physics are aimed at understanding the nature of our origins and the laws that govern us. To make an analogy that I like a lot and that can help you better understand with what these subject matters deal: Cosmology sees the universe as a balloon - our aim being to understand how and what inflates the it that makes the universe expand,' explains Luca.
He adds that he chose to study in the United States because he wanted to explore a different academic culture, to take advantage of the chance of getting to know the best specialists in his field and to enjoy the flexibility offered by the American educational system.
'A huge advantage the American system offers that is different from the European system is that you are not compelled to take classes in your study area exclusively, but you have to explore other areas as well - from Philosophy to Information Science. The fact that you have to explore various areas that are so different gives you another perspective on the world, while helping you form new connections in your own area,' says Luca Iliesiu.
About the professors of the prestigious university, the young man says they are amazing and it is an honour for anyone to watch Cosmology being explained by its founders.
'The professors are great. It's an honour to be able to understand the economic crisis from the perspective of Paul Krugman (with short stories from dinners at the White House), or watch Cosmology being explained by its founders. It's an academic environment where students can thrive and you can explore any field that piques your curiosity. There is a great diversity of students - from violinists to mathematicians. In such a group of people you can always feed your curiosity,' says Luca.
While working on a project at the university, the young man met famous mathematician John Nash, who became the main character in the film 'A Beautiful Mind,' and he says that he doubts that experience is the best to describe life at Princeton.
After graduation, the young Romanian man wants to continue with a doctoral programme in Physics and tries moving towards an academic career. But perhaps his most ambitious project, for which there is no deadline yet, is the establishment in Romania of an institute of advanced studies that will bring together Romanian and foreign researchers from various fields.
'As you know, Romania has an extraordinary community of scientists, especially in theoretical fields, which unfortunately is outside the country's boundaries. I think it would be great if there were a place in Romania where all these scientists, whether they work in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences or social sciences, may meet and bring at the same time overseas co-workers. One such institute exists in Princeton, where I have witnessed an extraordinary synergy between scientists from different fields. I know research is not supported in Romania, but this is not the case in the European Union - the fact that Romania is still a developing country increases our chances to raise funds for the foundation of such institute,' argues Luca Iliesiu.
He says that he wants to return to Romania when he can feel that through his work he will have a large enough impact without him having to sacrifice his principles.
When I ask him what he likes about Romania, Luca tells me that he appreciates the most the extraordinary people he has met, but he confesses that people again and their general philosophy 'it's okay as it is,' are what he dislikes about Romania.
'I guess people is what I like the most about Romania. I have met some amazing Romanians, in the country as well as abroad, who proved to me how important passion for your work is. Unfortunately, people again is what I dislike about Romania and their philosophy of it's okay as it is', whether we are talking about complex political decisions or simple road repairs,' says the young man.
Waiting for his return to Romania, Luca is longing for the polenta and cheese he would eat back home, and is regularly meeting other Romanians studying at Princeton to discuss the situation in Romania and what should be done to change Romania.
'At Princeton, there is a very large Romanian community, we're all friends and, without exaggerating, we talk almost daily about the political and social situation at home, about how to change Romania and about how these changes would be feasible,' concludes Luca Victor Iliesiu. AGERPRES
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