April 20, 2007
Speech delivered at the NIP Recognition Program
as Best BS Physics student
(Note: The NIP is the National Institute of Physics, my home institute.)
The NIP is a great place to be. It is the only place where people’s interest range from as great as the stars to as minute as subatomic particles. It is full of very interesting people. It takes in children as young as 11, wearing baby-doll shoes, and retains Physics cult followers who love the subject so much to the exclusion of everything else. They can do sophisticated research with pen and pencil or even the simplest equipment (attributed to lack of budget). You can find them here working in the day, and working in the night, and you actually wonder whether they go home at all. Also in this curious mix of interesting people are coffee addicts, insomniacs, Naruto fans, closet rockers, human computers, and those who, when asked “What instrument do you play?”, would answer, “The Titanium:Sapphire Laser”.
Truly, if you’re interesting, NIP is the place to be.
But Physics has PR problems. Though we are a happy group that can pack a videoke joint and sing the night away, trying to be like linear control systems (who strive to mimic the input) but unfortunately have inherent nonlinearities, people from other disciplines tend to shy away from us. Physics, and we, by extension, have a high fear factor. Notice the bewilderment in the eyes of new acquaintances when we tell them we are physics majors, and hear the silence following a resigned “Ah, Physics”, before a hasty change of topic.
The fear factor does us, and the Institute, no good. Potential students who may have become excellent Physicists turn to Engineering, where they are reduced to wearing black t-shirts sourgraping about their state of grades. Others refuse to be associated with us, and call us nerds, spitting it out like a dirty word.
This has got to stop. We should be holding our heads high. In this light, I suggest: let us launch an organization named, New Energy in Research and Development – or NERD. Consequently, the members shall proudly call themselves NERDS. No tambay hours required! The only requirements are, well, to be what we are and do what we do now. Study, do research, and contribute to the development of science in any possible way. That’s all. Maybe, we can meet once a month, drink coffee or tea (for non-coffee drinkers like me), and give progress reports with videoke singing as intermission..
Of course, the membership is initially available only to physics majors and physics graduates. That’s what we call “home advantage”. But then, once the other institutes learn about us, I suppose they’d want to join, too. You know, they might want an organization where they just need to be who they really are. So we’ll have members from Biology, Geology, Chemistry, Mathematics, MBB, MSI!. And probably, the Engineering students will stop sourgraping and learn that being a nerd is the way to start getting 1.0s.
We will lift the term “nerd” from being derogatory to honorific, synonymous to a passion to excel. And once “nerd” becomes honorific, people will no longer be afraid of us, or of becoming like us. And I think you’d agree that the more nerds there are, the more progress we will have in science. (Oh come on, don’t deny it.)
Some of us will be leaving NIP and will not be coming back, although I think that’s not exactly what NIP is hoping for. But I hope that wherever we go, whatever new fields we study, whatever we’ll work on, we’ll live by the principle of NERD – to do our best, to share the passion for excellence with others, and show people that excellence does not mean social ineptness. Let’s make nerd an honorific term.
So soon, we can say, with a glint in our eye: Are you one of us?