Mediamax’s exclusive interview with world-famous microbiologist, President of Hamburg University of Technology, Professor Garabed Antranikian
Garabed Antranikian is a recipient of Environment Prize of the German Environment Foundation, the most coveted European environmental award. Dr. Antranikian has achieved unprecedented success in the development of environmentally friendly products, particularly in production of new materials and fuels from renewable resources.
- Dr. Antranikian, recently you have been selected Chairman of Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST) Advisory Board. How do you assess your cooperation with FAST and what prospects do you see?
- I started cooperating with FAST only recently. As Chairman of the Advisory Board I have the duty to try to organize certain things that will especially develop the science in Armenia. Our collaboration with FAST is excellent. I have noticed that everything works very well and on time. We are hopeful to develop this project for the future.
The time limit is very important here, you have to be fast in sciences and technologies. You may have the best ideas, but if you are slow, you cannot reach the world. We have to be efficient, and I am very optimistic about our work and projects in the future.
We should use the potential of Armenians from around the world and try to make this connection work. FAST is becoming a catalyst bringing people together. So far nobody has asked me to do something for Armenia, but now for the first time FAST says: “Let's do something for Armenia”.
- What should be the main steps of the foundation in the development of Armenian sciences?
- Development of Armenian sciences depends on how we can meet the challenges of the future, for example, limitation of resources, renewable energy, health care and a number of issues we have in IT. So how can we do something that will be unique for Armenia? We have many people working in this area, but only the uniqueness will bring things forward in this country. It is important that we have a lot of intelligent young people working here. We also have a lot of universities in Yerevan and Armenia.
So how can we use or benefit from this potential? We should focus on various aspects, because Armenia is not a big country like the United States, France or Germany, so we have to use our resources efficiently. We need to collaborate with people outside Armenia in determining those aspects. Our future challenge will be building networks and being unique together. We have a lot of intelligence, but intelligence alone is not enough, you also need emotions. Bringing intelligence and emotions together maybe is the secret of Armenia.
- Are you satisfied with the developments in science we have in Armenia. What are the main challenges?
- The science is a very complex issue and it takes time. Armenia has developed over the past years. There are many interesting scientific groups in Armenia. The number of universities is extremely high as I see. As I said, Armenia is not a big country, so we have to find out what is important for the region and try to develop it.
I would change the whole system of higher education. The technologies are rapidly developing and I believe Armenia should try now to implement reforms in the university sector, try to find out whether all the universities or even many of them should in fact do research. Research costs a lot of money, so maybe you have to categorize universities by topics that are important for the region.
- What are the benefits of Armenian sciences and what can we give to the world in that field?
- The benefit is the location between the East and West. There are a lot of people who want to be educated in the Middle East and Arab world , while Armenia has Academy of Sciences with long-standing traditions. Armenia is an attractive country with a number of really intelligent young people, while many people don’t know about this country. Maybe we need to make more advertisement for Armenia. Science technology is important and we should build infrastructures. Armenia needs openness and internationality towards other societies, which is essential for the development of the country.
- What must be done to attract people to become closer to science?
- People think science is like a closed system, as universities are working on their own. We have to do more advertising, we have to talk to people and tell them what science means, what its benefits are. By bringing examples like health, we need to make clear that science offers benefits to the society. Politicians should also talk to the scientists trying to make things more popular in the society and providing sort of collaboration between science and politics. A lot of efforts should be made from all other places and not only from universities of science and technology. People must understand we will have a big problem without science and technology.
- What direction should Armenian science choose to get significant results and a place on global scientific map?
- There are many issues we have to discuss. My idea was to try to analyze the whole scientific system, define the positive sides, take the best expertise and focus on it.
I think that this is the right time for scientists and politicians to sit together and think where we should go and try to find out the best ways of exploiting the potential of this country, do something good for the society.
- What must be done to provide decent quality to keep pace with the rapidly developing world?
- The universities in Armenia are doing a lot of subjects with many people involved, but the resources are not enough, so you are not good in special fields. Although it is not so easy, many people want to do everything, but we have to really try to analyze the whole system and then try to find the best way and focus.
- Currently, special attention is paid to applied science in Armenia. In your opinion, is it right to give priority to applied sciences or do we need to develop basic science in parallel?
- Nowadays you cannot separate basic and applied sciences. Basic science is like alphabet, which you need in order to read and talk. Then you need applied science to do entrepreneurship and transfer technology, so all these activities should be together. Not everybody has to do basic science, since you can use the potential of some universities. There should be people focusing on the applied aspect of science and the combination will be important.
- Some young scientists prefer to continue their scientific path abroad. How can we keep them in Armenia?
- Brain drain is an issue now. There are some great professionals from Armenia working in my lab too. People leave because they don’t have the possibilities to work in excellent labs. If the quality of labs and universities will improve, it will be more attractive for young people to stay rather than leave. People choose places where they can work in a lab and spend a lot of energy for research.
- You are a world-famous and highly regarded microbiologist. What is your advice for young scientists?
- Working hard and loving what you do is the best decision. You will never be successful, if you do something which you don’t like, just because it is fashionable and everybody is working on it. If you do something which you like, you will always find good results. And of course, without hard work you will never reach to your goals. If you don’t succeed first, you should try again and again. There is a mentality, according to which if you don’t succeed, you are a loser. This mentality should be changed. This is what I say to young people: try and try again and don’t give up, do what you love. I hope to motivate young people to really do something, and of course society should help them and make it more attractive, otherwise they won’t stay. It’s a pity because you have so many good scientists.
Marie Taryan talked to Garabed Antranikian