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Business & Education Professional Development, Spectroscopy

Crossing Borders

“As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.”

I begin with an excerpt from a poem written in around 1900 by Constantine Peter Cavafy. Within its five verses, he tells us to live our life as an adventurous journey, to visit many cultures and countries, to not be afraid, to keep our heads high, and to enjoy that journey fully, while keeping in mind that our destination is – as Ulysses’ goal was – Ithaka.

These days, being an analytical scientist can bring a life full of adventure. We work in all kinds of interesting areas of exploration, and our endeavors give many of us the opportunity to see different countries and meet with scientists from many cultures.

Times have changed for the better. When I studied analytical chemistry some 40 years ago, not many of us crossed borders – neither geographical borders, nor the borders of our own specialism. Instead, scientists dug deeper and deeper, like moles searching for the light while, unsurprisingly, it became darker and darker around them.

Since then, analytical scientists have (thankfully) lost their tunnel vision and started to collaborate with a variety of sciences to provide direction, details, facts and figures. The tools we developed made many discoveries possible – in energy, health, biology, medicine, genetics and proteomics.

This issue of The Analytical Scientist is full of adventures and crosses many borders. We take a look into analytical science in South America, go deep into single cell analysis – and in “The Spectroscopist Inside,” we ask spectroscopists what’s on their ultimate wish list.

So why aim for Ithaka? What if we arrive and find it disappointing? Cavafy gives us an answer:

“Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”

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About the Author
Frank van Geel

Frank van Geel is owner of educational website Chromedia and Scientific Director of The Analytical Scientist. He studied analytical chemistry, specialized in mass spectrometry in the Netherlands and did several years of post-doc work in spectroscopy with Jim Winefordner at the University of Florida in the US. Then he became a science teacher and later publisher in chemistry and physics related topics. He developed numerous publications in chemistry and other sciences. He strongly supports the mission: Building online communities is the road to take. We need to strengthen the quality of analytical chemistry and we need to strengthen our community by sharing know-how and by sharing our opinions, visions and our views of the future of analytical science.

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