Whenever I had a bit of down time during this trip, I was scrambling to put together a paper, poster, and presentation for the research I had been doing this summer. Having spent most of my time in a nano biophysics laboratory this summer, I’ve gained some perspective on what it’s like to be in the trenches of hard science. Before, I had only seen the glitz and glam of new discoveries, and I had never realized how difficult, lonely, and often discouraging it can be as a researcher. I’ve spent long hours sitting in front of monitors, in the cold, bug infested basement of Sid Richardson, feeling lonely as I worked in solitude in a lifeless environment, feeling totally incompetent as I sifted through publications in scientific journals full of esoteric jargon that I couldn’t comprehend, feeling disconnected as I worked with microscopic nanomaterials I couldn’t see or touch, feeling hopeless as results were inconclusive or didn’t match with hypothesis. I realized that being a researcher was far from being a comfortable career, and I lost confidence in my ability to pursue it.
Every single scientist honored in the Nobel Prize center had also felt the same way. But they still pursued a career in science despite all the uncertainty, the low probability of success, and the low appreciation by the public. Which is why I felt so much joy to see scientists honored in the Nobel Prize center in Stockholm. I felt kinship with them, seeing their sacrifice, hardship, and important work that I get to build on. In 2004, Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov extracted single-atom-thick crystallites from bulk graphite via the Scotch-tape method (see picture above). In 2010, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of a method to produce graphene. This very graphene was the center of my research this summer.
When I saw the scotch tape exhibit in the Nobel Peace Center, I suddenly felt full of pride for my work and for being a successor to the work of such great minds. I felt a renewed motivation to go back to the lab and maybe one day, just maybe, be featured on those walls.
In a room tucked in a corner of the National Gallery in Oslo, there were people sitting in chairs along the perimeter, intently sketching a sculpture in the center. The words “seeing through drawing” were displayed on the wall. The cork boards along the walls, were covered with sketches of this sculpture by the gallery’s visitors. In the center was the sculpture Mother and Child by Gustav Vigeland.
Mother and Child by Gustav Vigeland (picture not mine)
I took a vacant seat and joined the others in attempting to draw the Mother and Child. At first, I didn’t recognize that the piece was by Vigeland since it didn’t have the familiar layer of greenish rust on it, nor did the figures appear as full bodied as the ones in Vigeland park. However, as I spent more time looking at the sculpture, I realized that the nude, vulnerable, and emotionally expressive figures showing a deep familial connection was a signature of Gustav Vigeland.
Vigeland’s sculptures depict the importance of family in Norwegian culture. One can see this in the paid paternal and maternal leave. I also saw this in visiting the Hertzberg’s home, where the whole family seemed to work together to prepare dinner and shared the responsibility of cleaning up. The son, Nikolai was helpful around the house and clearly a dutiful son to his parents.
In the Mother and Child, The boy is leaning on his mother’s shoulder, crying, while his mother kneels down below him to embrace him and support him. It shows the loving sacrifice of the mother whose child depends on her greatly.
It made me think about my own relationship to my mother, who has also sacrificed so much for me, and about the many times I had rushed to her arms and cried on her shoulder. The sculpture reminds me of her unconditional love, which is more valuable than anything in the world. I’m glad to have had an opportunity to see it.
From the moment I stepped off the plane, I have been shocked countless times at the fantastical beauty in Oslo. And, as a person who has always had a keen interest in visual arts, Oslo is a real wonder. This city is so aesthetically pleasing, even the gutters are beautiful, as Jacob had pointed out. Every where you look there is beautiful art, beautiful people, and beautiful nature. As you walk down the street, you hear the sounds of saxophone and sea gulls, feel the pleasant weather, and see fascinating architecture, unique sculptures, abundant flowers, and tall trees. Everything is perfectly clean and in pristine condition, and the local people are stylish, confident, and respectful. It feels almost like a utopia.
So is this paradise? Well so far, I’ve experienced mostly great things. I can’t deny how much I have loved Oslo, even when I was super fatigued and jet lagged. As far as paradise goes, I think this is pretty close.
When I received the fateful email from Mike Marshall that I had a spot on the Scandinavia trip, it was like receiving a letter to attend Hogwarts. I stared in disbelief as it sank in that I was invited to go to a mysterious and fantastic land and had most of my expenses paid for. It was too good to be true, yet it was. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was only a freshman! I knew that my name had not been entered many times into the lottery for this trip. Yet, somehow against the odds, the stars aligned in my favor, and I am about to embark on one of the most unexpected journeys in my life.
I had never planned to go to Scandinavia, and I would probably never go there if it weren’t for this specific program. I had some initial hesitations, about going because I was afraid it would interfere with my plans for the summer. However, I quickly realized how I couldn’t turn down such an incredible adventure. So what if I knew barely anything about Scandinavia? I will learn about it. When an opportunity like this comes, you’ve got to take it.
Life is full of such strange twists and turns. I never imagined that my path will somehow lead to the land of the midnight sun. I can’t wait to immerse myself into a new culture, learn its history and folklore, and bask in the beautiful sceneries. I hope to gain experiences that will enrich my life with a dose of spontaneity and adventure.