The inaugural class of Fellows convened for their second Global Meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in November 2018. Fellow Dr. Wes Fuhrman writes here about the intense but rewarding experience and connections he forged.
It may have been Cambridge, but with a nice view of the back bay from my hotel window it felt like Boston. The Charles river and Esplanade peeked into view, the rich fall maples and oaks softening the stark cityscape. The brisk weather livened our steps and in place of the anticipation we felt in Oxford, us fellows, rapidly settling into rigorous work at our labs, felt more like colleagues taking time to reconnect and update. On day one, we shared knowing smiles – an unspoken feeling that this audacious thing we’re a part of is working. We were ready and eager to take in whatever Harvard, MIT, and the Broad Institute could throw at us.
Or so we thought.
Cambridge. Was. Busy.
Rather than Oxford’s two weeks peppered with time to develop relationships between fellows, we had just one fervent week to be thrust into labs, in front of expert panels, and into the Cambridge ecosystem. Still, our schedule provided just enough time on our own so that we could each delve into labs and meetings with top-tier professors somehow not already on the docket. I took one such opportunity to meet with Jennifer Hoffman at Harvard, whose work I’ve long admired but only in finished form. We sat with several of her group members in a rapid-fire discussion of the latest in paradoxical quantum materials, and I walked out with immediate ideas on new avenues of research. A few months before the trip I’d also emailed Joe Checkelski of MIT about a lab visit, and he promptly suggested I give a talk while there – clearly down time in Cambridge is anything BUT down time.
As is becoming the trend, many of my highlights were unplanned meetings and discussions. One night I found myself next to Mikhail Lukin for dinner, where we threshed about some yet ambiguous but potentially transformative possibilities of quantum computing. Mikhail is a co-director of the brand new Harvard Quantum Initiative, focused on developing quantum science and engineering. We shared our lively discussion over how to best demonstrate quantum utility with a table full of researchers in other fields, branching into wildly varying topics over the course of the evening.
As a Schmidt Science Fellow, these impromptu conversations that dive deep into complex and intertwined arenas are the norm, and we often engage not knowing anything more about our conversation partner other than an assumption of their capacity. These opportunities are my favorite part of the Global Meeting Series, and in Cambridge we experienced them in spades. I cannot wait to do it again in California. Each day is the best of the year.